Ralph Nader is a fairly easy figure to ignore these days. But it’s worth addressing this bizarre rant addressed to Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen that the man recently wrote on the Huffington Post, if only to note its breathtaking condescension.
Titled "An Open Letter to Chairwoman Yellen From the Savers of America," the post accuses the central bank of sacrificing the interests of small-time savers to Wall Street investors by refusing to raise interest rates sooner. “We want to know why the Federal Reserve, funded and heavily run by the banks, is keeping interest rates so low that we receive virtually no income for our hard-earned savings while the Fed lets the big banks borrow money for virtually no interest. It doesn't seem fair to put the burden of your Federal Reserve's monetary policies on the backs of those Americans who are the least positioned to demand fair play.”
This is a sort of unexpected argument to see coming from Nader, who is theoretically a progressive. Most major voices on the left have urged the Fed not to raise rates, because doing so could further slow our already somewhat tepid economy, which would likely pinch those same middle-class savers much harder than the negligible interest rates banks are offering on savings accounts (especially since relatively few households actually survive on interest income). Typically, it's more common to see Republicans trot out the plight of senior citizens and savers as an excuse for why the Fed should hike rates, since at this point the GOP's inflationphobia is clearly absurd.
But anyway, Nader's questionable and sometimes wholly inaccurate policy analysis—don’t get me started on his aside about student loans—isn't really the most remarkable part of the letter. Rather, it's when the man gets personal. He writes:
Chairwoman Yellen, I think you should sit down with your Nobel Prize winning husband, economist George Akerlof, who is known to be consumer-sensitive. Together, figure out what to do for tens of millions of Americans who, with more interest income, could stimulate the economy by spending toward the necessities of life.
Yes, Ralph Nader just told the most powerful woman in the world to take more tips from her husband. Akerlof is a brilliant man. I'm sure he has interesting thoughts on monetary policy that they discuss over dinner. But Yellen is Fed chairwoman for a reason.
Anyway, just in case Yellen wants advice from another man in her life, Nader has a second suggestion"
For heaven's sake, you're a "liberal" from Berkeley! That is supposed to mean something other than to be indentured by the culture and jargon of the Federal Reserve. If you need further nudging on monetary and regulatory policies of the Fed, other than interest rate decisions, why not invite Berkeley Professor Robert Reich, one of your long-time friends and admirers, to lunch on your next trip home?
The funny part about this is that Robert Reich has been extremely vociferous in his opposition to a Fed interest-rate hike (yes, Nader seems to think Reich could offer advice on issues other than when the Fed should lift off, but still). The professor even posted a fun video outlining his argument in September. Maybe Nader should watch it. He might learn something.
Why the Fed Shouldn't Raise Interest Rates
In just a few days the Fed will decide whether to raise interest rates -- and it it does, it will slow the economy and impose a huge burden on Americans who remain unemployed or are working part-time or whose wages are still way too low. The betting among professional economists is the Fed will do the deed notwithstanding, because "inflation hawks" on the Fed's Open Market Committee are worried prices are about to rise. Yet there's no sign of inflation anywhere. By raising rates now, the Fed aggravates America's surging inequality and harms some of the most economically vulnerable members of our society. Please add your voice to the rising chorus of us who are asking the Fed not to. Click on: http://bit.ly/DontRaiseRates. To understand the issue and the stakes, please watch our video, below.Posted by Robert Reich on Saturday, September 12, 2015