While Fed Chair Jerome Powell fielded polite inquiries Wednesday from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Bloomberg about the central bank’s rate hike strategy, a wildly different conversation was taking place online.

In a YouTube chat alongside a livestream of Powell’s remarks, participants lobbed comments ranging from random, to sarcastic, angry, obscene and occasionally even thought-provoking. Lots of meme-stock and crypto promotion and emojis of bears, bulls, gorillas and rocket ships were also thrown into the mix. 

“FOMO MEATING…FOMO MEATING,” one commenter posted repeatedly — a joke reference to the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, which met this week to discuss monetary policy. With the economy roaring back after the pandemic, and inflation running at 7%, Powell announced Wednesday that the committee is likely to raise interest rates in March to cool things down.

Expectations of the shift are already having that effect. The S&P 500 is down about 8.5% from the end of December. Crypto markets have also been rough. Bitcoin has lost nearly half of its value from a high of about $67,000 in November, and has dropped by more than 20 percent since late December.

“Im moving to mars,” one commenter posted.

“BUY THE DIPS PEOPLE!!!” another said.


“Said a whole lot of nothing,” a fourth person grumbled.

Powell, of course, was not taking questions from the r/WallStreetBets crowd or the rest of the peanut gallery. Although the Fed has a mandate to be transparent, it typically only allows a hand-picked selection of seasoned financial journalists from major media outlets to participate in press conferences. Try as they might to be objective, these reporters tend to only ask about things the chair is prepared to speak on, and which therefore fall in line with his message.

Not engaging with “the rabble” might be leaving the Fed with some blind spots – and the public without all the information it wants. In particular, we think the public has some questions about the central bank’s role and its decision-making that are going unaddressed. Here are five important ones we came up with.

1. Is the Fed trying to drive down crypto prices by raising rates? If not, how do crypto markets factor into its decisions?

The U.S. banking sector has long had serious reservations about crypto. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, for instance, has called bitcoin “worthless” and “fool’s gold.” But cryptocurrency is hardly the fringe asset class it was a few years ago that could be easily shrugged off by financial experts. After swelling to $3 trillion in late 2021, it is now at about $1.5 trillion. (Dimon’s opinions notwithstanding, JPMorgan and other banks have also started offering some crypto investment products.)

The Fed has regulatory oversight over banks, not cryptocurrency. But it also has a mandate to influence monetary policy in order to achieve “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.” Surely crypto is significant enough now to have an impact on those goals. At the very least it’s clear, judging from the many crypto-related comments on YouTube, that many people want to know the Fed’s thinking on digital assets.

2. To what extent have Fed policies exacerbated wealth inequality? 

Most media questions surrounding Fed decisions revolve around whether its policies will speed up or slow down the economy, and how quickly that will happen. Less attention is paid to how those mechanisms can result in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. 

That economic divide has consistently risen. The combined wealth of all U.S. billionaires rose by $2.071 trillion, or 70.3%, from March 2020 to October 2021, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. This came after the wealth gap between the richest and poorest Americans more than doubled from 1989 to 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. The bottom 40% of Americans in 2016 dipped into “negative wealth” territory from a positive number three decades earlier — meaning they were in debt.

The Fed’s large-scale asset purchases over much of the last decade, intended to boost the economy’s rebound from the 2008 financial crisis, may have contributed to this trend. That effort kept interest rates at record lows for long periods of time, boosting stocks and real estate, which are primarily owned by wealthy individuals. 

3. Assuming that the Fed has worsened the wealth gap, how can it avoid doing so in the future?

To her credit, Washington Post economics reporter Rachel Siegel did ask Powell during Wednesday’s press conference about whether the Fed measures the outsize impact of inflation on lower-income people. Because they spend a much larger portion of their income than the wealthy do on items like food, gasoline and housing, price increases fall much harder on poorer people. 

But the question didn’t quite hit the real underlying issue as directly as it could have. Namely, Fed policies generally favor the rich over the poor, even if that isn’t the central bank’s stated intent. We’re curious about how much central bankers think about these effects and what can be done to remedy them.

If Powell’s answer to Siegel was any indication, it doesn’t seem like the Fed has much considered that prospect.

“I’m not aware of inflation really falling more on different socioeconomic groups,” Powell said. “I think some people are prone to suffer more.”

“We control inflation for the benefit of all Americans,” he added.

4. What can be done to keep big Wall Street players from holding the Fed hostage? 

On a similar note, plenty of observers have commented that the Fed often seems to take marching orders from big banks, Wall Street and powerful elites. Although it is supposed to promote stability in the economy overall, the central bank tends to react most decisively to stock prices. It’s been suggested that this could be the reason why the Fed kept rates so low for so long following the 2008 financial crisis, despite potential negative impacts on other sectors beyond banking and investing.

5. What happens if the Fed makes the wrong call? Is there any accountability? 

During the Trump administration, fears rose that the notoriously unpredictable former U.S. president might suddenly fire Powell and replace the chair with a puppet. But the Federal Reserve is designed to operate without that kind of political interference. 

The Fed’s board of governors serve 14-year terms after being appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The chair serves 4-year terms after similarly being appointed and confirmed. Neither governors nor the chair can be removed before the end of their terms except “for cause,” which is something along the lines of “malfeasance.”

On the flip side, that means there appears to be no real consequences for Fed officials if they make a bad policy decision. Probed a little during the press conference about whether the Fed went too far in pumping up the economy after the 2008 recession, Powell simply said: “I’m going to leave that to the historians.” 

Stay tuned: The Business of Business is going to try to ask these questions of the Fed (if they will let us). We want to know if you have any other questions you think need to be answered. Let us know at press@businessofbusiness.com

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