Three things we learned from the Federal Reserve today

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Sep 17, 2015

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee decided — again — to wait to increase interest rates, which have been near zero since 2008. Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen held a press conference in Washington after the announcement. Here are three takeaways: 

An increase is still expected soon. Yellen didn’t rule out an interest rate increase before the end of the year. But there are only two more Federal Open Market Committee meetings this year — one next month and the other December 15 and 16 — so that doesn’t leave a lot of suspense. And the Fed can always change its mind, based on economic conditions.

The Fed expects Congress to do its job. That’s what Yellen said, more or less, when asked if the Fed considered the effect of a possible government shutdown when making its interest rate decision. The shutdown worries “played absolutely no role in our decision,” Yellen said. She said it’s the responsibility of Congress to “pass a budget to fund the government” — and to raise the nation’s borrowing authority before the country risks a debt default this fall.

Yellen isn’t listening to the critics. A group of activists protested outside the downtown Washington building where the press conference was held, pressuring the Fed not to raise interest rates. Yellen said she was unmoved. When asked about accusations from other critics who say the low Fed interest rates have widened the wealth gap, because they’ve mainly benefited upper-income Americans, Yellen said low interest rates have actually helped low-income Americans, because they’ve created jobs.

 

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