Dear Editor: Coaches avoid comparing athletes from different eras. Should we exercise similar restraint assessing government leaders like Federal Reserve Board Chairmen?
Ranking each Fed chair from Paul Volcker in 1979 to current chairman Jerome Powell, like comparing athletes, is subjective. Too many variables muddy the debate.
Human nature is more constant. Even after factoring in generational nuances, you can count on any age group to be somewhat impulsive and fickle.
Volcker was scorned by farmers for raising interest rates to lessen inflation, but by 1983, inflation had dropped to 3% from 11%. In 2011, Chairman Ben Bernanke, facing his own high unemployment numbers, was pushed by the NY Times to stage his own “Volcker moment.” President George H.W. Bush blamed Alan Greenspan’s high interest rates for his 1992 re-election loss. Jerome Powell sparred with President Trump.
I’m wondering how Volcker’s tough love approach would play to today’s post Baby Boomer generations who have never experienced inflation, interest rates, or unemployment in double digits (before the pandemic). Remember, Volcker and President Reagan’s administration were still trying to accommodate many World War II generation citizens, a group well acquainted with adversity. In 1980, many Baby Boomers were still living with their parents who shouldered the burden of home economics.
Jerome Powell admits that lowering inflation is a balancing act. I don’t envy him. He’s trying to guide a society that balks at tough love — like wearing a facemask to fight a deadly virus.
Can we at least give him a chance?
Jim Newton, Itasca, Illinois