The gold standard, near-zero interest rates, less central bank independence: Trump's latest Fed pick backs unusual economic policies

Washington (Feb 1)  President Donald Trump last week officially tapped former White House economic adviser Judy Shelton for a powerful position at the Federal Reserve, putting her on track to shape policy alongside central bankers whose mainstream views she has long objected to.

Shelton has instead advocated for highly unconventional economic theories and policies, ranging from the gold standard to a less independent central bank. Her nomination to the Board of Governors has drawn scrutiny from economists and lawmakers, including  the senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren.

It's unclear how the controversy will play out during a confirmation hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate, which could come as early as February. Asked about the nomination, the 13 Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee either declined to comment to Business Insider or did not respond to multiple email inquiries.

Shelton did not return requests for comment but was  interviewed by Business Insider in June. Here's where she stands on key economic issues.



The role of the Fed

Reuters

Shelton has suggested the Federal Reserve has too much power and questioned its very existence. She has repeatedly likened the Fed to a system of central planning, even saying it has "Soviet" influence over financial markets.

"How can a dozen, slightly less than a dozen, people meeting eight times a year, decide what the cost of capital should be versus some kind of organically, market supply determined rate?"  she said to The Financial Times in May. "The Fed is not omniscient. They don't know what the right rate should be. How could anyone?"

Shelton has also  questioned the value of the so-called dual mandate set by Congress, which gave the Fed its core job of maintaining stable prices and maximum employment.



Government data

Mike Theiler/Reuters

Shelton has questioned the accuracy of economic data,  saying in 2015 that she doesn't "trust the statistics on GDP growth or on inflation." Last year, she  told The Washington Post she was still skeptical of whether the statistics captured technological innovation correctly.



Interest rates

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Shelton began to advocate for drastically lower interest rates around the same time that Trump took office, a sharp reversal from her position in the years following the Great Recession. As recently as 2016, she  criticized low interest rates for flooding "wealthy investors and corporate borrowers with cheap money, while savers with ordinary bank accounts have been obliged to accept next-to-nothing returns."

More recently, she has called for  eliminating interest on excess reserves - or extra money that banks store at the Fed - because it incentivizes holding funds over lending them. Her current support for near-zero interest rates has almost certainly curried favor with Trump, who has repeatedly demanded the central bank take steps to juice the economy.



The gold standard

Reuters

Shelton has advocated for a return to a system like the gold standard, a now-fringe economic policy that pegged the dollar to the yellow metal.

Proponents argue the gold standard prevents overly loose monetary policy. But it is widely dismissed by mainstream economists, who say it is highly impractical in the current financial system and that it would tie the hands of policymakers in the event of a recession.



Fed independence

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Experts say a central bank needs to operate independent from political influence to maintain a healthy economy and financial markets. But Shelton has  said the Fed should "pursue a more coordinated relationship with both Congress and the president" in order to reach economic goals, such as a smaller trade deficit.

Pressed on whether the central bank was an independent institution, Shelton  told Business Insider in June that it would be "superficial" to answer yes or no. She pointed to administrative operations between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, calling the agencies "fiscally incestuous."

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