How A Little Know Fed Governor Got It Right

Two years ago, Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller proposed a groundbreaking economic strategy that suggested the Federal Reserve could successfully reduce inflation to its target rate of 2% without triggering the typical increase in unemployment rates.

  • This innovative approach faced significant skepticism from leading figures in the economic community. Fast forward to today, with inflation progressively approaching the 2% target while unemployment remains at historically low levels, Waller's foresight appears remarkably accurate.
  • This development has significantly bolstered his reputation within the financial community, making him a potential candidate for future leadership positions within the Federal Reserve.

Pragmatic Hawk

Historically, Waller has adopted a hawkish stance in his monetary policy approach, prioritizing the control of inflation over concerns about unemployment. This perspective was largely influenced by his belief in a model that suggested inflation could be managed without resorting to significant job losses, a viewpoint that diverged from traditional economic theories.

  • Waller hypothesized that in a robust job market, employers would respond to tighter monetary policies by reducing job openings rather than dismissing current employees, thereby avoiding significant layoffs.
  • In 2022, as the Federal Reserve initiated aggressive interest rate hikes from almost zero, in response to a realization that inflation was not a temporary phenomenon, Waller's perspective was met with criticism.

Prominent critics, including Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury Secretary, and Olivier Blanchard, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, challenged his views, highlighting what they perceived as flaws and inaccuracies in his research.


Despite these criticisms, the subsequent decrease in job vacancies from 7% to 5.4% and the maintenance of low unemployment rates, alongside a reduction in inflation from 7.1% in June 2022 to 2.6% in December, using the Fed's preferred price index, lend credence to Waller's predictions. This outcome has been acknowledged by economic experts as a testament to the potential accuracy and foresight of Waller's analysis.

  • Waller's approach was influenced by historical labor market dynamics, particularly the Beveridge curve concept, which traditionally illustrates an inverse relationship between job vacancies and unemployment.
  • He argued, based on the unique economic conditions emerging from the pandemic, that the Federal Reserve could navigate towards reducing inflation without the expected negative impact on employment.

His increasing influence and unique insights have not only shaped the Federal Reserve's policy direction but have also positioned him as a potential successor to the current Federal Reserve Chair.


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