Republican 2024 Contender Hutchinson Says He Would Fire Fed Chair Powell

(Bloomberg) -- Long-shot Republican presidential contender Asa Hutchinson said he would replace Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell because the central bank chief has damaged the US economy by aggressively raising interest rates.

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“Well, of course he has a term but I would like to see a new leader into the Fed,” Hutchinson, a former Arkansas governor, told Bloomberg Radio Tuesday.

Pressed on whether he would fire Powell, Hutchinson responded, “I would fire him. And the reason is that he has raised interest rates at the wrong time. I think it’s been more aggressive than it needed to be.”

Hutchinson is part of a growing chorus of Republican presidential hopefuls who have expressed a lack of confidence in the Fed’s stewardship of the economy under Powell. But his comments went further than his 2024 rivals, who have said only that they would replace the chairman after his term ends in May of 2026.

Former President Donald Trump, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence have all said they would appoint new leadership at the bank.

The US economy has proved surprisingly resilient, despite the Fed’s rapid rate-hiking campaign, boosting optimism that the US central bank can tame inflation without severe economic damage. The Fed is expected to hold rates steady at its policy meeting next week amid signs that job gains and inflation are gradually cooling.

Hutchinson also criticized the Fed’s dual mandate, saying the central bank should be focused on inflation and leave employment and job creation to the purview of the president.

“I think that inflation should be the controlling factor for them. The unemployment, that’s what the president of the United States should worry about, that’s what Congress worries about,” Hutchinson said. “Control inflation, watch the monetary supply that’s out there and that should be the focus.”

Trump, who is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, appointed Powell to lead the Fed but clashed with him within months, saying he believed the bank went too far in raising rates. In office, Trump broke with an unwritten tradition of the White House largely not commenting on Fed policies, as he publicly lambasted the chairman over his decisions.

Read more: Trump Says He’s ‘Not a Fan’ of Powell, Wouldn’t Reappoint to Fed

Hutchinson faces a challenging path to the GOP nomination, polling at 0.3% in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, for 10th place in the field.

Hutchinson qualified for the first debate last month, standing at the edge of the Milwaukee stage. But it’s unclear if he will make the cut for the second gathering on Sept. 27. The Republican National Committee has upped the qualifying criteria, requiring candidates get at least 50,000 unique donors and 3% support in a combination of polls since August 1.

--With assistance from Joe Mathieu and Kailey Leinz.

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