Before we start, I’m going to need to go into a bit about the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System of the United States of America (AKA the Federal Reserve Board). If you think you have enough context and just want to read about Stephen Moore, you can skip ahead to the “Now it gets interesting!” tag below.
Stephen Moore has been stealth-nominated by the White House for a position on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System (AKA “the Federal Reserve”). Someone in such a position is called upon to make decisions about many things, but most often and most centrally decisions about the availability of credit in the United States. The Board of Governors’ principle tool to influence monetary policy is the ability to raise and lower the interest rate that banks must pay to borrow money from the Federal Reserve. Not only does this affect directly many interest rates for consumer and mortgage loans, but it also affects the total amount of money in the economy. For instance, if a bank has an opportunity to loan money out at a specific interest rate, but it doesn’t have enough to do so, it can borrow the money from the Fed at a low interest rate and then lend it out at a higher interest rate. This allows them to use the income from the higher interest customer loan to pay the interest they owe to the Fed and pocket the difference. But if the interest rate the Fed wishes to charge is high enough, the rate charged to the customer might be so high the customer does not want the loan or perhaps so high that the customer does not have credit sufficient to qualify for the same size load at that higher rate (the required monthly payments would be larger, and the customer many not be able to comfortably afford those higher payments, in the judgement of the bank, even if the customer believes they could).
While this seems to be a very limited power – and in many ways it is – this ability to increase or decrease the amount of money in the economy has many effects. It can make companies more or less likely to increase prices if their customers have access to more or less money. It can cause furloughed workers to be brought back as marginal enterprises become profitable again, or it can cause somewhat profitable factories to close up shop as consumers’ ability to spend dries up. It can, in short, cause a host of effects throughout the economic life of the United States and the economic life of any nation that does large amounts of business with the USA.
For this reason, it’s important that the people who serve on the Board are both highly educated in economics (in order to consider how different sectors of an economy might gain or lose from a change to interest rates) and also politically moderate in their economic policies. The government already can (and does) influence the success or failure of industries and the wages of different workers engaged in different categories of employment. Most of that influence, however, has to go through the legislative process where it can be publicly debated. But the Fed could conceivably time rate hikes and drops to be better for some industries than others. Theoretically the Fed could lower interest rates dramatically to, for instance, save the traditional auto industry from the forces of electrification if the major automakers got themselves into a situation where the loans that they needed to rescue themselves would come with too high a price in interest. Of course, it would be impossible to pick a moment when only those industries that a Fed Governor wanted to gain would benefit and only those industries that a Fed Governor opposed would lose from a rate change. But with careful enough attention to timing, the Fed could still choose to disproportionately benefit some at the expense of others, and because of the nature of their work, to do so without any chance for public comment and with no opportunity for voters to throw the Governors out.
Now, normally I’m not much in favor of the political class known as “moderates”. In this case, however, being a moderate is something we can observe that stands as a proxy for something less possible to quantify: whether or not a Governor-nominee will, if confirmed, fuck with the entire economy in order to (try to) enact an agenda that would serve only a minority, potentially a small one. People that have specific agendas that they believe in passionately are acceptable only if they also have a strong sense of responsibility and moral restraint that causes them to refrain from acting on narrow interests when making decisions about monetary policy that will affect the entire nation and many elsewhere besides. We don’t actually do a good job of picking for true neutrality and/or great moral restraint, of course. The bias at the Fed, however, is largely about benefiting the wealthy and has been for a long time. Thus even though one might find that bias undesirable, one can at least make consistent predictions based upon it. This predictability allows businesses, even lefty businesses, a certain amount of dependability in monetary policy that makes predicting the market for a product or service easier, which in turn makes it easier for people – even poor and left wing people – more likely to be able to predict customer activity. That, in turn, means that potential entrepreneurs thinking about investing in, say, a food cart, are more likely to be correct in their assessments, and thus more likely to invest at the right times in the right businesses. This benefits everyone… even if it will benefit the already wealthy most.
NOW IT GETS INTERESTING!
When I said that Stephen Moore had been “stealth nominated” that’s because Trump has indicated that he is going to nominate Moore without actually nominating him. It’s not exactly “stealthy” in the normal sense, but it does allow any opposition to emerge before Trump actually nominates him. Trump believes this will allow him to save face if it turns out that Moore is a bad nominee who can’t get confirmed. Normal presidents just vet their candidates and only announce an intent to nominate after that vetting is over and they’re actually ready to nominate in the next 24 hours or so. “Intent to nominate” for other presidents is just a convenient way of allowing the media to ready their stories about the nominee to be released at the same time the person is actually nominated, rather than a day later. Oh, but not this one! If I’m right, Trump is upset and still resentful over the fight to confirm Kavanaugh to SCOTUS.
Of course, any reasonable president would still do vetting, but it is true that it’s hard to vet for whether or not someone engaged in sexual assault as a teenager 30 years ago. In addition to moving the process forward more quickly so the president can fill positions that have work piling up, it’s also just respectful to the potential nominee. After all, if it turns out you’re a deadbeat dad and that’s a problem for someone supposed to manage the money of the entire country, you shouldn’t be confirmed and why get your deadbeat-ness plastered all over the news in order to not get hired for a job anyway? SPOILER ALERT: Yes, Moore is a deadbeat dad who was behind dozens of thousands of real US dollars in child support and had to be forced by a court to pay up.
Stephen Moore, however, is no ordinary unfit candidate for the Fed’s Board. Of course he doesn’t have the necessary background in macroeconomics, much less the extensive experience in monetary policy, that should be taken to be minimally necessary for anyone serving on the Board of Governors. No, Moore is also wildly partisan, gleefully oppressive, and nutty as squirrel poo. In other words, he’s a Republican.
“But in exactly what ways, dear Crip Dyke,” both my readers might ask, “does Moore manifest this? You can’t blame Trump for Nominating someone who committed sexual assault at 17, after all, since there’s no way that Trump could have known that. Sure you can blame him for sticking with Kavanaugh but not for an oversight that any president might have made? Perhaps the situation is the same with Moore?”
Ah, you might ask that, you lovable scamps, but it turns out that Moore’s unfit temperament was a wee tiny bit more detectable than Kavanaugh’s criminal background. Moore published his partisan, oppressive, and nutty opinions in the National Review and spoke them aloud on television.
So, the New York Times is now, weeks late is better than never, actually reviewing some of the things he’s said about the economy that Moore would create if he had the power:
Mr. Moore has written that it may be dangerous for women to earn more than men and has criticized women’s athletic abilities. On Sunday, he tried to shift the focus from his writings to his critics, saying, “I think most fair-minded people think this has been kind of a sleaze campaign against me.”
Oh, he has, has he? He did, did he? Do go on…
In 2014, Mr. Moore wrote a column for National Review, in which he said women earning more than men “could be disruptive to family stability.”
During a 2016 debate on the minimum wage, for example, Mr. Moore talked about how to get more Americans into the labor force. In a serious tone, Mr. Moore said he would like to see more preteens working.
“I’m a radical on this,” he said. “I’d get rid of a lot of these child labor laws. I want people starting to work at 11, 12.”
At times like this, one is tempted to call upon George Takei however much it might seem inopportune given his recent comments on the Democratic presidential primary. Oh, fuck it. Hit it, Takei:
It is, of course, hard to reconcile his desire for women to make no money with his desire for everyone to be working from the time they turn 11. Oh, wait. No it’s not. Repeal the 13th! Slavery for every woman!
Although he’s tried to minimize all this, including by saying that he doesn’t remember the columns he was paid to write as 2016 was so long ago, it turns out that these aren’t things he says once and forgets. They’ve been consistent positions for a long time:
In December 2000, he fielded questions from C-Span viewers for an hour. A caller asked Mr. Moore about statistics that showed black women earning more than black men in America.
“It’s not a good thing that black women are making more than black men today,” Mr. Moore replied. “In fact, you know, the male needs to be the breadwinner of the family. One of the reasons you’ve seen the decline of the family, not just in the black community, but also it’s happening now in the white community as well, is because women are more economically self-sufficient.”
None of these were jokes, the NY Times takes pains to point out. But wait: Moore does love the jokes, too!
Mr. Moore broke from a talk about health care to tell his audience [about] a joke about the departing first family. “By the way, did you see, there’s that great cartoon going along?” he said. “A New York Times headline: ‘First Thing Donald Trump Does as President Is Kick a Black Family Out of Public Housing,’ and it has Obama leaving the White House. I mean, I just love that one. Just a great one.”
Kicking Black families out of their homes! What great, good times!
There is, of course, much more. But don’t worry! After learning about all this,
Senator John Cornyn of Texas said simply that he had “an open mind” about Mr. Moore
Oh, yes, he said that. But while you roll your eyes, consider that the statement does, at least, confirm that Moore is exactly the nominee that Republicans deserve.