Herman Cain? Seriously?
On the heels of President Trump’s nomination of Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve board of governors, the president reached still further into the fringe last week and nominated the former pizza baron for another vacant spot at the central bank. Maybe Sarah Palin was too busy?
Cain, voters may recall, was a brief sensation during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, with his “9-9-9” tax plan. Unlike Moore, a longtime right-wing pundit, Cain does have some relevant experience for the position, having served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in the 1990s.
But Cain is also trailed by sexual harassment allegations (he denies them), and, like Moore, seems amenable to returning to the gold standard, a truly bizarre idea in 2019 and an immediate red flag.
The bottom line is that neither Moore nor Cain should be anywhere close to the Fed, which needs serious policy makers and economists making interest-rate decisions that have wide-ranging economic impacts.
Lack of proper qualifications would be bad enough. But for Trump, both nominations are also obvious ploys to install political supporters who will cater to his short-term electoral interests. Both Moore and Cain want immediate interest rate cuts, echoing the president’s demands. Installing them as part of the Fed’s seven-member board of governors would politicize an agency that in recent decades has stood out for its nonpartisanship. That tradition reflects, in part, the hard-learned lessons of the 1970s, when political considerations arguably lead the Fed to avoid tough steps needed to prevent steep inflation.
The Senate has to approve both nominations. That means it also has a say on the larger question of whether the country still needs an independent, depoliticized Federal Reserve. Bravery has been in short supply among Senate Republicans during the Trump presidency, but this is a time when it’s really needed.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney sounded like he understood the stakes last week when he questioned Cain’s nomination. “I would like to see nominees that are economists first and not partisans. I think it’s important that the Fed be a nonpartisan entity,” said the former Massachusetts governor. “The key is that someone is outside of the political world and is an economic leader, not a partisan leader.”
Those are the right words. But GOP resistance has wilted under the president’s pressure before. Romney and his colleagues need to stick to their guns and vote against nominees who would undermine the Fed’s mission.