Yellen meets activists on economy, picks

Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, Oct. 16, 2014
Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, Oct. 16, 2014 AP

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen met Friday with leaders of groups that want a voice in the selection of future presidents at the Fed’s 12 district banks.

“The focus was making sure that working families’ voices were heard,” Connie Paredes of Dallas, who represented the Texas Organizing Project, told McClatchy after meeting more than an hour with Yellen.

Paredes was one of 30 activists from the Center for Popular Democracy, a nationwide network of liberal and faith-based organizations who want more Fed attention on returning the nation to full employment, and for a more public process of selecting Fed presidents.

Unlike most central banks, the Fed has a dual mission. It must guarantee price stability, and it does that with the goal of keeping inflation in a range between 1 percent and 2 percent. But it also has the mission of promoting full employment, and that’s the string activists pulled on Friday.

“The Federal Reserve should publicly commit to building an economy with genuine full employment … promising to keep interest rates low until the economy has reached full speed and is producing millions of new jobs and higher wages for workers across the economic spectrum,” said The National Campaign for a Strong Economy, another group that met with Yellen and issued a statement afterwards.

A pressing concern for the activists was creating a mechanism by which ordinary people can have some input in the selection of presidents at the Fed’s 12 district banks. The presidents of the Philadelphia and Dallas district banks, Charles Plosser and Richard Fisher, have announced their retirement next year.

Traditionally, Fed presidents are appointed by the board of directors of each of the 12 banks, with the approval of Fed governors in Washington. The terms are for five years, and they can be reappointed. Critics of the Fed argue that Wall Street and Corporate America get unusual sway because they make up the boards of directors at the Fed banks, and there hasn’t historically been input from the public.

“We need a (Dallas) Fed president that is very aware of the community that he or she represents. Not just the corporate banking community but the entire community,” said Paredes, who applauded Philadelphia’s creation of a feedback process but still wanted more public participation in the Fed’s selection process.

The Fed had no immediate comment on Friday’s meetings.