Washington • President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged that the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to zero or even usher in negative rates, suggesting a last-ditch monetary policy tactic tested abroad but never in America.
His comments came just one day before European policymakers are widely expected to cut a key rate further into negative territory.
In a series of tweets, Trump said that “The Federal Reserve should get our interest rates down to ZERO, or less, and we should then start to refinance our debt,” adding that “the USA should always be paying the the lowest rate.”
Trump continued to criticize his handpicked Fed chair, Jerome Powell, saying “it is only the naïveté of Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve that doesn’t allow us to do what other countries are already doing.”
He concluded by calling Powell, whom he nominated to head the central bank in 2017, and his Fed colleagues “Boneheads.”
The president’s call for negative rates is a significant escalation from what the White House was demanding from the Fed even six months ago. Trump and his colleagues have quickly gone from calling for a moderate rate cut to urging negative borrowing costs.
Trump’s economic advisers met Wednesday to continue discussing ways to push through more tax cuts, such as a payroll tax cut, along with the legality of using executive authority to index capital gains to inflation, according to an administration official.
The president has said repeatedly that the economy is doing “great” and has accused the news media and Democrats of trying to sow economic uncertainty. Trump’s optimistic economic diagnosis makes his demand for negative rates all the more striking.
But Trump increasingly sees the global economy as a winner-take-all game, one in which countries compete on exchange and interest rates. The president has repeatedly criticized other governments for trying to protect their economies by lowering rates or providing more stimulus, viewing those actions as working against America’s growth.
Negative rates, which have been used in economies including Japan, Switzerland and the eurozone, mean that savers are penalized and borrowers rewarded: Their goal is to reduce borrowing costs for households and companies to encourage spending. But they come at a cost, curbing bank profitability.