Trouble in paradise for Federal Reserve

Jackson Hole, Wyoming may not be paradise, but in late August it is about as close as any place on the face of the earth.  So it is not surprising that the annual Federal Reserve retreat, an invitation-only gathering of the power elite, takes place here amidst stunning natural beauty.  USA Today calls it “essentially summer camp for monetary policymakers, and it attracts powerful central bankers from all over the world, including the European Central Bank and the Central Bank of Japan.”

But not all the campers are happy.  Janet Yellen is not showing up, nor are some other members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the group that actually meddles in money markets, attempting to “manage” them.  As the stock market bubble inflated by five years of zero interest rate targeting and trillions of dollars of euphemistically labeled “quantitative easing” is showing troubling signs of collapsing, the Fed is facing serious scrutiny from both the left and the right.

The left, predictably, is showing up to demonstrate.  The Washington Post reports:

The campaign, known as Fed Up, is staging a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that will run at the same time as the invite-only gathering of the world’s top financial and economic policymakers and academics hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The campaign’s organizers said they expect at least 50 people -- ranging from workers to economists -- to attend the so-called “teach in,” which will be held in the same hotel as the Fed’s gathering. Topics include income inequality, efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and whether the Fed should invest in municipal bonds. (snip)

The Fed Up campaign made history last year when about a dozen demonstrators showed up at the conference to draw attention to the country’s uneven economic progress, particularly among minority communities. The protest led to meetings with top Fed officials over the past year, starting off with Kansas City Fed President Esther George, one of the central bank’s most vocal supporters of tightening the reins on the economy, who met with the group for two hours in Jackson Hole. In the fall, Fed Chair Janet Yellen hosted the group, and organizers have reached out to other officials since then with mixed success.

After devoting the lead of the article and a total of 637 words to the leftist protest, the Post adds a brief (115 words) mention of another gathering at the bottom of the article, this from the right, that will not be picketing or demonstrating.  Lucky me, I am flying off to Jackson Hole today to attend the first ever Jackson Hole Summit, a gathering of free market advocates, hosted by the American Principles Project, with the participation of the Atlas Network, Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and England’s Cobden Center.  The Summit offers a scholarly, policy-oriented counterpart to the Fed’s meeting.  The conservative sound money conference will be live-streamed.  Check the agenda here, and watch the live stream of the conference here.

This promises to open a door to a serious national reconsideration of the Federal Reserve, an institution that is a weird hybrid of private ownership and government power.  Although it has received very little attention in the media, Donald Trump is asking serious questions about the Fed, in addition to questions about illegal immigration and trade.

After decades of serious questioning from the political fringe, critical discussion of the Federal Reserve and the alternatives to it may finally be breaking into the mainstream.