- California Democrat says 'things rise in the spring'
- Comments made as Yellen appears at Congressional committee
Janet Yellen can stay in God’s good graces by waiting until springtime to raise interest rates, Representative Brad Sherman told the Federal Reserve chair on Wednesday.
“God’s plan is not for things to rise in the autumn, as a matter of fact, that’s why we call it fall, nor is it God’s plan for things to rise in the winter, through the snow,” Sherman, a Democrat from California, told Yellen at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee. “God’s plan is that things rise in the spring. And so if you want to be good with the Almighty, you might want to delay until May.”
Later Wednesday, Sherman wrote on his Twitter account, "Don’t actually think God has an opinion on monetary policy, but if She did, She would agree that the FOMC shouldn’t increase rates in winter."
At the hearing, Sherman more seriously went on to say that he’s worried about the risks if the Fed lifts off too early and then has to return to zero, among other issues. While his comments were a little more colorful than the typical rationale for postponing liftoff, they underline an important point: Yellen is coming under congressional and political pressure as the Fed inches closer to raising rates.
Yellen said earlier Wednesday that the U.S. economy is performing well and December would be a "live possibility” for a rate increase, though no decision has been made. Rates have been near-zero since 2008 as the Fed tried to encourage economic activity to drive down unemployment and pull inflation closer to its 2 percent goal.
As the central bank prepares to take its foot off the gas, it’s seeing push-back from politicians, non-governmental organizations and interest groups. American Principles Project, a Washington-based non-profit pushing for an increase, held a conference on the sidelines of the Kansas City Fed’s Jackson Hole, Wyoming, summit this year featuring prominent conservative speakers. Fed Up, a coalition of community groups organized by the Center for Popular Democracy in Washington, was also present -- but urging for rates to stay low.
While Yellen and her Fed colleagues spend time talking to politicians and groups interested in the central bank’s actions, they’re legally granted independence when setting monetary policy. So Sherman can warn Yellen about Divine wrath, but in the near term, he can’t do much to make sure that she heeds that advice.