Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Economics

In Donald Trump vs. Jay Powell, New Battle Lines Are Being Drawn

The president’s tweets are a mere nuisance compared with his push to pack the Fed with partisans.

relates to In Donald Trump vs. Jay Powell, New Battle Lines Are Being Drawn
Photos: Getty Images
Updated on

Stoicism, the classical philosophy of emotional resilience, logic, and virtue, has long been a handy guide for anyone dealing with a crazy boss. Seneca the Younger, a first-century Roman statesman, found it helpful in managing the famously volatile Emperor Nero. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also seems to be a fan. He has a mantra, a simple phrase he uses frequently in private and occasionally in public, that sounds straight from the stoic’s guide to a happy life: “Control the controllable.”

For a full year, Powell has been on the receiving end of an unprecedented barrage of abuse from President Donald Trump, who’s called the Fed “loco,” as well as “the biggest threat” facing the U.S. economy. This from the man who tapped him for the job. Powell enjoyed five quiet months at the helm of America’s central bank after he took over from Janet Yellen in February of last year. But as he and his colleagues ratcheted up borrowing costs, the president’s ire rose. Trump took his first shot last July, and things only got worse as the Fed plowed ahead with four interest rate hikes over the course of the year, the last in December as officials also penciled in two rate hikes for 2019. That, along with the global economy already showing signs of strain, sent financial markets into a temporary tailspin, further inflaming the president.