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Ron DeSantis has vowed to “rein in” the Federal Reserve if he wins the White House, as he used his first big 2024 campaign speech on the economy to blame the US central bank for high inflation, considering a digital currency and straying into social policy.
The Florida governor, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, criticised the Fed during an event in New Hampshire on Monday as he tries to reboot his struggling campaign, which has him trailing former president Donald Trump by a wide margin in national polls.
DeSantis used the speech to strike a distinctly populist tone as he laid out his economic agenda, promising to curb the power of large corporations and elites and further limit commercial ties with China.
“We need to rein in the Federal Reserve. It is not designed or supposed to be an economic central planner. It is not supposed to be indulging in social justice or social engineering,” he said. “It’s got one job, maintaining stable prices, and it has departed from that with what it’s done over the last many years.”
The Florida governor suggested that he would be unlikely to support another term for Jay Powell, the current Fed chair and a Republican who was first appointed to the helm of the central bank by Trump, then reappointed by Democratic president Joe Biden. “I will appoint a chair of the Federal Reserve who understands the limited role that it has and focuses on making sure that prices are stable for American businesses and consumers,” DeSantis said.
His overarching complaint with the Fed is that monetary policy was kept too loose for too long after the financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic, contributing to high inflation that then forced the central bank to rapidly raise interest rates over the past 18 months. But DeSantis also raged against the Fed’s steps towards adopting a central bank digital currency, saying it was trying to crush financial liberty and seize more control over economic transactions.
“Why did they want this? They want to go to a cashless society. They want to eliminate cryptocurrency and they want all the transactions to go through this central bank digital currency,” DeSantis said.
His attack on the Fed comes as he tries to appeal to conservative primary voters who have a deep mistrust of the central bank, along with other US government institutions.
DeSantis has frequently attacked large corporations as Florida governor for being too “woke” in promoting environmental, social and governance standards. But he cast his economic vision around curbing the power of big business, reflecting a big shift within the Republican party, at least rhetorically, against large businesses.
“We cannot have policy that kowtows to the largest corporations and Wall Street at the expense of small businesses and average Americans. There’s a difference between a free-market economy, which we want, and corporatism in which the rules are jiggered to be able to help incumbent companies,” DeSantis said.
He also promised to take more economic steps against China, including revoking its preferential trade status that paved the way to its World Trade Organization membership more than two decades ago.
“We have to restore the economic sovereignty of this country and take back control of our economy from China. This abusive relationship, the asymmetric relationship between our two countries, must come to an end,” DeSantis said.