Stephen Moore On Federal Reserve Board Nomination
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There is a job opening at the Federal Reserve, and President Trump knows who he wants to fill it. Stephen Moore has been an informal economic adviser to the president and makes frequent appearances in the media, often defending the president's decisions about the economy. The Federal Reserve regulates monetary policy, setting interest rates and keeping track of inflation and unemployment. President Trump has been hammering the Fed chair Jerome Powell for raising interest rates. Stephen Moore has repeated those criticisms. He's also facing criticism himself from some who say he is not qualified to sit on the Fed's Board of Governors. Moore is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and founder of the Club for Growth, an organization that tries to help elect Republicans who will cut taxes. And Stephen Moore joins us this morning from his home in Maryland.
Welcome back to the show.
STEPHEN MOORE: Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: You have, as I noted, served as an economic adviser to President Trump during his campaign and while he's been in the White House in an informal capacity. We've had you on this very program because of your proximity to him. Will that very proximity undermine your ability to operate independently at the Fed?
MOORE: Well, first of all, Rachel, I have to say it was an incredible honor when I got that call about 10 days ago from the president to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. I still kind of have goose bumps because I think it's an incredible opportunity to try to help, you know, create this high-growth and low-unemployment and high-wage economy that I want and, of course, the president wants.
Some people have questioned whether I have qualifications for this. I am not a PhD economist. Maybe there are too many PhD economists over at the Fed. But I have - Rachel, I have been in this game a long time. I've been a economic policy person in Washington for well over 30 years. And I'm involved in fiscal policy, tax policy and monetary policy. So I do think that I have, probably, more experience in this game than many, many other people - in fact, a lot of people who have served on the Federal Reserve Board.
MARTIN: To the question though, do you have the ability to be independent from President Trump when it comes to decisions that you may be making at the Fed?
MOORE: Absolutely. Look. It is true that Donald Trump picked me because I do share a lot of his beliefs on the economy. I love the direction the economy has taken under Donald Trump, as do most Americans. Seventy-one percent of Americans like the direction of the U.S. economy and what's happened. I want to continue to pursue policies that, you know, are for high growth and for - I love the higher wages. I think a lot of Trump policies have gotten us there. This is the best labor market for workers in 50 years.
But there are many areas, Rachel, in fact, that I've spoken about on this show, where I've disagreed with Donald Trump. I'm much more of a free trader than Donald Trump is. I've questioned some of his policies - for example, his steel tariffs, which I think are a mistake. So - and I've spoken out on that. So I think it's an unfair criticism to say I'm just going to be some kind of sycophant for Trump. I agree with a lot of his policies but some of them I don't. And when I don't, I will - you know, I will be an independent voice for what's best for the American economy and the American worker.
MARTIN: Some of the blowback on your nomination has been quite personal. I want to give you a chance to respond specifically to a critique from the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush, a conservative economist named Greg Mankiw. He said that you do not have the, quote, "intellectual gravitas for this important job." How do you answer that?
MOORE: Well, Greg's one of the best economists in the country, so, you know, I - but there are many other economists, by the way - Larry Lindsey, who served on the Federal Reserve Board, and others, who have come out strongly in favor of me. So these are very, you know, partisan, polarizing times right now. And I hope this is not a bruising confirmation. And I also hope that, you know, as I go through the confirmation, Rachel, it isn't these kind of personal attacks but more on what this is about. You know, what are my beliefs on the economy? What would I strive for if I were at the Fed? Those are very legitimate issues that we should debate.
MARTIN: Mmm hmm.
MOORE: I hope it doesn't get into these kind of personal criticisms.
MARTIN: You said the economy is doing well, and by many metrics it is. Unemployment is low. It's a little less than 4 percent. But last month, U.S. employers added just 20,000 new jobs. Are you worried about a slowdown in hiring?
MOORE: I'm - look. First of all, in terms of the labor market right now, this is the best labor market for workers in 50 years. So it's a great, great labor market. You know, we have 7 million more jobs today than people to fill them, and I think, in no small part, because of Trump's tax cuts and deregulations.
But as to your question about whether the economy is slowing down a little bit, yeah, it is. And I think everybody's a little concerned about that. We had, you know, very robust growth in 2018. And so far in 2019, we have signs that the economy is slowing. I do not believe there is a recession looming, but I do think we're seeing slower growth. And by the way, one of the reasons for that, as I've said - I've started saying this back in October - was that I thought the Fed was raising interest rates at a time when it didn't need to be doing so. And I think I've actually been vindicated because I was worried that if the Fed did this, it would slow down the economy. And it looks like that's what's happened.
MARTIN: OK. Stephen Moore, adviser to President Trump, nominee to the Federal Reserve Board - Stephen, thanks for your time.
MOORE: Thank you, Rachel. Have a great day.
MARTIN: You too. NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley has been listening in to that conversation. Scott, I mentioned some of the critiques of Moore's nomination. What are you hearing more broadly?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Well, it has been pretty scathing, Rachel, from professional economists of all stripes. And that is in contrast with the way those economists have generally regarded Trump's other nominees for the Fed. They've generally earned high praise. But, of course, economists don't get a vote. Republican senators do, Democrats do. But so far the - any criticism in the Senate has been much more muted.
MARTIN: What specifically are the critics saying?
HORSLEY: There are questions, certainly, about Moore's judgment and his competence and also questions about his strong partisan streak. Critics say either of those could be problematic. And together, they are a bad combination. To give you an example, William Luther runs the Sound Money Project at the American Institute for Economic Research.
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WILLIAM LUTHER: If your goal is to stabilize the macroeconomy, then Stephen Moore's policies go in exactly the wrong direction. If, instead, your goal is to push Democrats out of office and get Republicans re-elected, then Stephen Moore's policies make perfect sense.
HORSLEY: And there's concern that that would compromise the Fed's reputation as an apolitical body, at least in perception.
MARTIN: Is it true that Stephen Moore is more political than past Fed picks?
HORSLEY: Certainly, his background suggests more of a devotion to a partisan agenda than any kind of rigorous analysis of economic conditions.
MARTIN: So I asked Stephen Moore if he is seeing signs of a recession. He says no but understands there to be signs of a slowdown. You have reported on that very thing. Are - is there a reason to be concerned right now?
HORSLEY: There is certainly an indication that the economy is downshifting not slipping into a recession. But the Fed itself is predicting growth of around 2.1 percent this year. Moore, in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal a couple weeks ago, suggested there's still growth prospects of 3 to 4 percent for the next several years.
MARTIN: NPR economics correspondent Scott Horsley.
Scott, thanks. We appreciate it.
HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.