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Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., received mockery on Wednesday for fixating on diversity quotas and blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for inflation while questioning Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell during a Senate Banking Hearing.
Menendez prioritized his allotted time to question Powell as to why the Federal Reserve Bank has had a lack of Hispanic presidents over the years and berate him for his plan to fight inflation, which the Senator blamed heavily on Putin’s war in Ukraine.
The Democratic lawmaker opened his questioning during the hearing by stating “I want to start on the issue of diversity of the Fed.” Menendez asked Powell to reply to a letter signed by himself and other U.S. senators urging the Fed chair to agree to “reforms to the process for selecting bank presidents and Class V directors” so that the banks have “Fed leadership that truly represents the public.”
Powell agreed that he would respond to the letter.
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Menendez then asked the chair, “And also will you commit to work with me to put in place real meaningful changes to the process so we can have a broader array of voices to the Fed leadership?”
The Fed Chair committed to “having a frank discussion with [Menendez] about that” and urged that “we’ve made tremendous strides” in terms of “diversity” for some categories of reserve bank leaders. “The diversity numbers are I think quite impressive for the B and C directors,” he claimed, adding “The A directors, as you point out in your letter, less so. But those are appointed by the bankers in the district. But we can have this conversation.”
Menendez was not satisfied with this report. He pressed Powell, stating “’Less so’ but it’s not – it’s worse than ‘less so.’ You don’t have one bank president in the history of the Federal Reserve who’s been Hispanic. That’s far worse than ‘less so.’”
Powell pushed back, clarifying he was talking about “directors” rather than bank presidents, but the Senator continued hounding him unabated.
“There is a tremendous opportunity, and it didn’t happen. I just continue, you know, I feel like I’m the lone effort on this,” the Senator stated, He then declared, “but 62 million Hispanic Americans who represent two trillion dollars of domestic purchasing power deserve a seat where some of the most important economic decisions are being made.”
He added, “We look forward to the engagement that you’ve said that you’re willing to engage in.”
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Menendez subsequently insisted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was one of the main drivers of inflation and asked Powell how the Fed’s plan to raise interest rates will do anything to combat that. He stated, “I think you’ve said here today that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pandemic-related supply chain issues are perhaps – and the energy issues that float from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – are perhaps some of the biggest factors in driving inflation.”
He then asked, “But the question is, how is it that raising interest rates on those underlying causes of today’s inflation ultimately are going to change it? Energy is still energy. Supply chain is still supply chain. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a continuing challenge for the world. But there is nothing about interest rates that’s gone effect any of that.”
Powell insisted that there are areas of the economy where “we can moderate demand and give supply time to recover so that supply and demand get back into better balance than inflation comes down.”
The Federalist contributing writer and founder of online video database Grabien.com, Tom Elliott, found Menendez’s lines of questioning irrelevant.
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He tweeted, “Sen. @SenatorMenendez currently using his time w/ Jerome Powell to challenge the Fed’s commitment to racial diversity: ‘You don’t have one bank president in the history of the Federal Reserve who is Hispanic.’”
“Now Menendez is [tsk-tsking] Powell for raising interest rates owing to his belief that it’s Putin’s fault prices are going up, so higher rates will only hurt Americans. Stupidity this dangerous should surely be criminalized,” he added.