President Donald Trump is, famously, not a big believer in institutional or even constitutional constraints on his power and his prerogatives. And he’s even less deferential to informal traditions that require him to keep his thoughts to himself.
Still, his chronic grousing about the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Board has to be disturbing to people who depend on stable economic policies as much as to those who resist an imperial presidency. Last month he allowed as how he wasn’t “thrilled” about the interest rate hikes the Fed was undertaking under the stewardship of his appointee Jerome Powell, but said “I’m letting them do what they feel is best.” It’s now looking like he was indicating a mood rather than a settled policy, according to a report from Reuters:
Asked on Monday if he believed in the Fed’s independence, Trump said: “I believe in the Fed doing what’s good for the country.”
That’s not a positive answer to a question that should be axiomatic. Trump also fired a shot across Powell’s bow:
“Am I happy with my choice?” Trump said to Reuters about Powell. “I’ll let you know in seven years.”
Sure enough: “U.S. stocks dipped after Trump’s comments to Reuters.” Considering the extent to which inappropriate talk by the president is now taken for granted, it takes something a bit more unusual to raise eyebrows or bug markets. Next time he mutters veiled threats against the Fed, some real turbulence could ensue.