The Future of the Federal Reserve Under the Trump Administration
President-elect Donald Trump

Last month, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the second time since 2008, largely due to a "more expansionary fiscal policy in the aftermath of U.S. elections," according to its released minutes.

But for a consecutive series of hikes to happen this year, economic growth may need to become more convincing.

The Fed's minutes concluded that "as with real activity and inflation, the outlook for the future path of the federal funds rate is subject to considerable uncertainty."

Interestingly, under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, the Fed itself may get a face lift. A renewed focus on the Federal Reserve Transparency Act and term expirations of board members may alter the structure of the Fed.

After 2008, the independent Fed adopted unconventional monetary policy called quantitative easing, which expanded its balance sheet to $4.5 trillion from $900 billion between 2008 and 2014.

Quantitative easing ended in October 2014 after Janet Yellen's appointment as Fed chief early that year.

Although there was talk of a rate increase in 2014, factors such as the inflation and unemployment rates kept that from happening.

With the U.S. economy close to full employment, the Fed thought that it needed to act to "normalize" rates, starting "gradually," according to Yellen.

The recent rate increase brought the federal funds rate to 0.25% from 0%.

During his campaign, Trump was critical of Yellen.

In an interview with CNBC last year, Trump said, "Well, it's staying at zero because she's obviously political, and she's doing what Obama wants her to do."

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari later responded on CNBC, denying that politics affect Fed policy-making.

But after Trump's inauguration, there is a very good chance that the Fed's monetary policy will be subjected to external scrutiny with Republicans in control of the presidency and both branches of Congress.

The Republican Party platform had called for more transparency of the Fed's role. The GOP intends to achieve this through legislation that would allow an annual audit of rates to keep the Fed insulated from political pressure.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) already reintroduced the legislation "Audit the Fed" on Tuesday, after similar efforts were slowed down in the last Congress. 

In supporting the proposed legislation, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said that the Fed "crafts monetary policy that will continue to devalue our currency, slow economic growth and make life harder for the poor and middle class."

The Fed is an independent body within the government that is ultimately accountable to Congress and the American people. With Republicans controlling the Senate, the Fed may have many Trump appointees in the coming years.

The Board of Governors consists of seven positions. Two of its five board members are scheduled to end their terms next year: Yellen and Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer. 

Two of the seven Board of Governors positions have been vacant since 2014 after Sarah Bloom Raskin and Jeremy Stein left. Because all the Board of Governors members also constitute the Federal Open Market Committee, this also means that two of the 12 positions on the FOMC have remained unoccupied.

These vacancies may have weakened the Fed's structure over the past years. Filling these vacancies requires the Senate's approval, and the Senate reportedly declined a hearing on President Barack Obama's nomination of two new governors.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. 

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