Three Lessons                          

File photo: FRB

By Isaac Cohen*

At the start today of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting, there is consensus that another increase of 0.75 percent in the federal funds interest rate will be announced tomorrow, at the meeting’s end. The best evidence in support of this conclusion can be found in the speech by central bank  Chairman Jerome Powell, at the last in person symposium on economic policy, held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on August 26.

The speech was deliberately shorter, narrower and more direct. Chairman Powell said, “restoring price stability” requires maintaining for some time higher interest rates. Therefore, to bring down inflation also requires slower growth and softening labor market conditions. This “will also bring some pain to households and businesses,” but these are “the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation,” against the “far greater pain” caused by “a failure to restore price stability.”

To explain this decision, Chairman Powell invoked “three important lessons” drawn from past experience, quoting his predecessors. First, the former Chairman Ben Bernanke was quoted on the “unconditional” central bank responsibility “to deliver price stability.” Second, former Chairman Paul Volcker was quoted on the need to “break the grip of inflationary expectations.” Last, “keep at it until the job is done,” paraphrasing the title of former Chairman Paul Volcker’s 2018 memoir “Keeping At It.”

*International analyst and consultant, former Director ECLAC Washington. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio, UNIVISION, TELEMUNDO and other media.

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