The Fed isn’t owning up to its failures. We need to make it accountable.

April 19, 2023

Sen. Rick Scott
April 19, 2023

The Federal Reserve has become a monster. 

The Fed is the world’s largest and most powerful central bank. It spent years buying up trillions in government bonds, mortgage securities, and other financial instruments. Altogether, its assets add up to a staggering $8.6 trillion. 

Considering that massive balance sheet, and how influential the Fed is on the American economy, it is insane that there is not a truly independent inspector general to investigate it.

When the Inspector General Act was passed in 1978, the Federal Reserve was a shadow of what it is now. Maybe that’s why the Fed was allowed to get away with appointing its own inspector general, who reports to the Fed’s board. That sets it apart from the more than 30 federal agencies that have truly independent IGs appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Can anyone make a good argument for why the Federal Reserve doesn’t have that level of oversight? I haven’t heard one yet.

Thankfully, oversight isn’t a partisan issue, but when I announced my new bill last month with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, to put an independent IG at the Fed it shocked the heck out of hyper-partisan Washington. That’s good. Maybe now the failures of the Federal Reserve will get the attention from Congress they demand and the American people deserve.

The Fed’s trillions aren’t its only problem. It’s supposed to oversee banks, but Silicon Valley Bank failed on its watch. It’s clear that we need answers and accountability that cannot be provided by the current system. It’s been more than a month since this failure happened and no one has been fired at the Fed, no changes in oversight have been announced, and there is no indication that a broad review of other banks is occurring to ensure they don’t have the same problems that sank Silicon Valley and Signature.

Given that my bill with Sen. Warren has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, it would only make sense for this good idea to earn the full support of Fed Chair Jay Powell and the entire board. If he really cares about the American economy and serving taxpayers, he will endorse it and call for its passage. Having little to no accountability at the Fed is not acceptable and has proven to have disastrous consequences. If we do nothing, we risk repeating 2008, when the federal government failed to do its job, no one at the Fed was held accountable, and no changes were made there. The rich and Wall Street got richer while working families struggled. Since when did the federal government become responsible for investment decisions by the rich?

Unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect Chair Powell to join in supporting the passage of this good bill. For years, Powell has horribly mismanaged the Federal Reserve. I’ve been calling on the Fed to scale down its massive balance sheet after years of maxing out its ability to purchase treasuries and mortgage backed securities. Neither Powell nor any member of the Fed Board has been able to explain the rationale for a nearly $9 trillion balance sheet. 

It’s clear that we need to shake Washington out of this status quo that continues to fail working Americans while lining the pockets of the DC establishment and Wall Street elites. As I said when Sen. Warren and I introduced this bill, Congress needs to recognize that there are moments in life when you work with a scalpel and others when you use a hammer. We need to get out the hammer. It’s the only way we will make Wall Street and the old Washington insiders understand that we won’t take this corruption any more.

Some have questioned whether an independent IG will change anything. Skepticism about another government official is understandable, but IGs at other federal agencies have shown the independence necessary to hold the executive branch accountable. The IGs I have worked with are dedicated to transparency and accountability and they have shown me that there is a real desire to make sure government is being responsible and putting the taxpayers’ interests first. That’s exactly what the Fed needs.

We can’t wait any longer for big change at the Fed. Consumers and American families must not bear the brunt of the failures of gross mismanagement and greed at their banks or the incompetence and misdeeds of the government regulators who are there to protect them. It’s time for Congress to stand up and demand accountability. 

Republican Rick Scott represents Florida in the United States Senate. He is the former governor of Florida.