Top Fed Officials Meet Protesters on Sidelines of Jackson Hole

Fischer Has Set Tone for Yellen's Speech, Says French
  • Fed’s George: ‘We are pleased to have this conversation’
  • Fed Up coalition speakers urge central bank not to raise rates

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer and 10 of his colleagues met Thursday with a coalition of activists to hear complaints about the U.S. central bank, in a first-of-its-kind event on the sidelines of an annual policy retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“Even when we disagree, we do it with mutual respect.,” said Esther George, president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, who hosts the high-powered symposium in the heart of the Grand Teton National Park that draws central bankers from all over the world. “We are pleased to have this conversation.”

Esther George speaks with Shawn Sebastian, field director of the pro-worker Fed Up coalition, an initiative of the Center for Popular Democracy, following a meeting with a coalition of activists on the sidelines of the Jackson Hole economic symposium on Aug. 25.
Esther George speaks with Shawn Sebastian, field director of the pro-worker Fed Up coalition, an initiative of the Center for Popular Democracy, following a meeting with a coalition of activists on the sidelines of the Jackson Hole economic symposium on Aug. 25.
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Faced with criticism that it doesn’t look out for the interests of poorer Americans that have been sharpened in this U.S. presidential election year, the Fed has been going out of its way to show that it’s getting the message.

Fischer and George were joined by New York Fed chief William Dudley, Boston’s Eric Rosengren, Cleveland’s Loretta Mester, Neel Kashkari from Minneapolis, Governor Lael Brainard, the Atlanta Fed’s Dennis Lockhart, Robert Kaplan from Dallas, John Williams from San Francisco, and Richmond Fed boss Jeffrey Lacker.

The pro-worker Fed Up coalition, an initiative of the Center for Popular Democracy, is pressing for more diversity among the leadership of the central bank and for policies that take into account the needs of low and middle income families. Several speakers explicitly urged the Fed not to raise interest rates to fight a threat of inflation that they didn’t believe was real.

Got to Go

Fed Up protesters wearing green T-shirts chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, these Wall Street banks, they’ve got to go” at a rally prior to the meeting at the Jackson Lake Lodge, where the symposium will hear a speech Friday from Chair Janet Yellen.

Dudley said that the Fed had done a “pretty lousy” job of delivering better diversity and added that “I want to look at all changes people are suggesting.”

Fed Up says the central bank is dominated by white men -- Yellen is its first woman chair -- and takes issue with the fact that private banks select two-thirds of the members of the 12 regional banks’ boards of directors.

The Richmond Fed responded to those complaints this week -- economic writer Helen Fessenden and economist Gary Richardson on Tuesday published an economic brief addressing Fed Up’s concerns, and they say monetary policy isn’t well-suited to the end goal the activists have in mind.

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