Ever since his confirmation hearings, Fed Chair Jay Powell has struck me as an ordinary, plainspoken person. This week I was reminded of this trait at his FOMC press conference and tweeted this statement:
This impression is consistent with reports from last year when he was being considered for Fed chair:
[F]riends and former colleagues of Powell's describe him as “annoyingly normal.” He lives in Chevy Chase, Md., and often rides his bike about eight miles from home to the Fed. He doesn't drink much, plays golf and the guitar, and has an odd ability to repeat people's sentences backward to them, a quirk former colleagues say is a reminder of his smarts — and how closely he listens.I bring this up because Jeanna Smialek of Bloomberg has a new article that nicely captures this feature of Jay Powell. The title of her piece is Powell Styles Himself a Fed Chairman for the People. Here are some excerpts:
Alan Greenspan famously said he’d mastered the art of mumbling “with great incoherence” as Federal Reserve chairman. Jerome Powell is attempting the opposite approach.
“Because monetary policy affects everyone, I want to start with a plain English summary of how the economy is doing, what my colleagues and I at the Federal Reserve are trying to do and why,” Powell, who took the helm at the U.S. central bank in February, said at the outset of his June post-meeting press conference on Wednesday.
He’s a non-economist who uses concise, simple terms -- growth is “great” and “there’s a lot to like” about low unemployment. He downplays the importance of modeled relationships and emphasizes the data in hand. He’s adding more press conferences, and the Federal Open Market Committee has already shortened its post-meeting statement under his watch.
It is a great article, read the whole thing. To be fair, though, previous Fed chairs would also consider themselves the people's Fed chair. But I do think Jay Powell brings a unique tool set to the Fed in terms of his interpersonal communication skills. I suspect these "soft" skills will prove very valuable going forward, especially as the Fed continues to navigate the politics of normalizing monetary policy.