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Minneapolis Fed President: Pay Attention to Important Issues, Not Interest Rates

May 10, 2016 (EIRNS)—In a speech yesterday before the Economic Club of Minnesota, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank president Neel Kashkari told his audience that the current obsession with interest rates is a waste of time. The point is, he said, that central banks don’t influence or control "many of the things that really matter to the long-term wellbeing of society."

Kashkari prefaced his remarks by noting that in the case of the too-big-to-fail banks, he believes there must be a "serious national conversation about whether we have done enough to address large bank failures," and that is why there will be a public symposium on this issue on May 16, "to raise awareness and educate the American people."

However, the Fed’s policy on interest rates isn’t going to solve the country’s most profound problems, Kashkari said, and the financial markets’ obsession with the Fed’s actions in the short term is of little use. More attention should be paid to declining productivity, for example. He pointed out that there has been some improvement in the labor market but very slow growth in output. Thus the average productivity of workers is growing slowly "and sometimes even falling." This "could be a troubling sign for the future of the economy. We don’t know."

But, Kashkari concluded, understanding what slower productivity growth means for economic growth "is essential for policymakers, investors and the public. We must remember that trend labor productivity is fundamentally outside the control of the Fed. An excessive focus on the next interest rate decision distracts us from important questions like this one."

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