I was in the room when President Bill Clinton decided to reappoint Alan Greenspan, a lifelong Republican originally appointed by Ronald Reagan, as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. A political adviser urged Mr. Clinton to choose an administration ally, but that was never seriously considered. The president’s choice was not determined by party, or politics or ideology.
That’s how it has been for decades: Federal Reserve chairmen and governors have been selected based on their ability to serve the country. President Barack Obama reappointed George W. Bush’s nominee, Ben Bernanke, as chairman. President Reagan reappointed Jimmy Carter’s nominee, Paul Volcker.
The Federal Reserve System was created by statute in 1913, but the independence of its monetary policy from congressional or presidential influence is not codified by law — and it wasn’t always inviolable. In recent years, so-called reforms have been proposed to subject Fed monetary policy to congressional review, but its independence has so far been preserved.
For good reason: An independent Federal Reserve led by governors who are committed to pursuing its dual mandate of price stability and full employment, as well as effective regulation — and who make decisions based on facts and analysis — is critically important to our economy, the well-being of the people and the market credibility of Fed policy making.