Herman Cain? Seriously?
On the heels of President Trump's nomination of Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the president further reached the fray last week and nominated the former pizza baron to another vacancy in the central bank. Maybe, Sarah Palin was too busy?
Cain, voters remember, was a brief feel in the 201[ads1]2 Republican presidential election, with its "9-9-9" tax plan. Unlike Moore, a solemnly high-value pundit, Cain has some relevant experience for the post and has served as director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in the 1990s.
But Cain is also haunted by allegations of sexual harassment (he denies them), and as Moore seems to be back to the gold standard, a truly bizarre idea in 2019 and an instant red flag.
The bottom line is that neither Moore nor Cain should be anywhere near the Fed, requiring serious decision makers and economists who take interest-rate decisions that have massive economic implications.
Deficient qualifications would be bad enough. But for Trump, both nominations are also obvious for installing political supporters who will meet their short-term election interests. Both Moore and Cain want immediate interest rate cuts, such as echoing the president's demands. By installing them as part of the Fed's seven membership boards, politicians will politicize an agency that has stood out for its non-partisanship in recent decades. This tradition partly reflects the hard-learned lessons of the 1970s, when political considerations may possibly lead the Fed to avoid difficult steps needed to prevent steep inflation.
The Senate must approve both nominations. That means it also has an expression of the greater issue of whether the country still needs an independent, de-politicized Federal Reserve. Bravery has been deficient among the Senate Republicans during the Trump Presidency, but this is a time when it really needed.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney sounded like he understood the bet last week when he asked Cain's nomination. "I would like to see nominees who are economists first and not partisans. I think it's important that the Fed is a nonpartisan entity," the former Massachusetts governor said. "The key is that someone is outside the political world and is an economic leader, not a biased leader."
That's the right words. But the GOP resistance has withered under the president's pressure before. Romney and his colleagues have to stick to their weapons and vote against nominees who will undermine the Fed's mission.