Back in July, I expressed concern that Congress might undermine a key pillar of U.S. economic policy: the independence of the Federal Reserve.
Why is that so important? Because independent central banks do a better job of controlling inflation. Inflation may not be an immediate threat to the U.S. economy, but as that day approaches, the Federal Reserve needs to be able to pull back on monetary stimulus without political interference.
Of course, the remarkable scale of Fed actions over the past 18 months requires close review. Both practically and politically, Congress needs to exercise careful oversight over a now-multi-trillion arm of the Federal government.
The political challenge is finding a way to provide such oversight, while defending the Fed’ independence. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Anil Kashyap and Rick Mishkin suggest one way to strike that balance:
- Oppose the House bill (sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul) that would give the Government Accountability Office (an arm of Congress) broad auditing powers over Fed actions, including monetary policy.
- Endorse a pending amendment (sponsored by Rep. Mel Watt) that would give the GAO specific authority to audit the various lending programs created under the 13(3) provision regarding “unusual and exigent circumstances.” As Anil and Rick describe it:
This audit would involve oversight of the operational integrity of these facilities’ accounting, internal controls, and protection against losses. It would also disclose the borrowers from these facilities one year after the facilities are closed. The audit would produce new, important information that is not otherwise available and would play to the strengths of the GAO. And the amendment would exempt the Fed’s normal monetary policy actions from the audit.