The Federal Reserve and a Look into the Future

Will Engstrom

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The economy can often be quite confusing. Checks and balances, bulls or bears, interest rates, and even inflation can be scary concepts at times. Recently, in a CBS “60 Minutes” Report, Scott Pelley and the 60 Minutes crew gave an in-depth overview of the Federal Reserve. This included an exclusive interview with the Chairman of the Fed, Jerome Powell.

With so many parts to the government, the role of the Federal Reserve can be forgotten. Often called “The Fed,” it is a central bank and fiscal agent for the United States created 100 years ago to give security to the public’s investments. The Fed, simply put, controls the supply of money, maximizes employment, and sets interest rates on credit to banks to control inflation. The chairman of the Fed may have one of the most influential jobs in America. His word, treated like gold, can change the global economy with a simple tweet. His name is Jerome Powell, Georgetown graduate, Republican, and Wall Street millionaire- a man that knows a few things about the economy.

Recently, many questions have risen about our future and where we are headed. During the interview, Scott Pelley hit Powell hard with questions about what he thinks will happen in the next couple years and challenged him for the answers many Americans are looking for.

“Last year was the highest financial growth we’ve ever seen, we can’t continue this growth forever,” Powell said. The Bureau of Statistics has reported that job creation numbers, retail sales, and discretionary spending have all been on the decline in recent months. It is also important to factor in other big countries that affect our economy, like China and Europe, which have seen their economies begin to slow even earlier than the United States.

Whether it was an exaggeration to protect banks from the growing number of concerned investors, or the utter truth, Powell concluded the interview with stating, “The economy is in a good place.” Yet, people are still skeptical- even the President. With four interest rate increases in the tenure, Trump came at his elected Chairman claiming, “the Fed is crazy,” and interest rates are too high. With the current interest rate at two percent and inflation reaching 2.44 percent in 2018, many say that the downfall is beginning. 

Many will never forget the financial crisis of 2008. It was a time of major uncertainty in the strength of the U.S. economy, but also a test for the Federal Reserve. With barely surviving the mortgage-based crisis, Powell confirmed that the Fed is in a much stronger place than it ever has been. 

Have we hit a wall? It is hard to tell, but here is how I look at it: The labor force is growing much slower than in the past. People are becoming more concerned about the environment and statistics showing that birth rates are lower than in previous years. Also, people are living longer lives. The rate of people relying on 401K’s is growing, and fewer people are looking for employment. So, yes, the economy is going down, but everyone knows it is bound to happen. What I worry about is how low we are going to go. With that said, I hope Mr. Powell is right.