WASHINGTON – Four regional Federal Reserve Bank presidents rotated onto the Fed's main policymaking group this week for the first meeting of 2011. Two of the four have been critics of the Fed's $600 billion Treasury bond-buying program.
Here are snapshots of the four new voting members who will help shape Fed policy this year.
President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Plosser has said he fears that the risk the bond program could ignite inflation outweighs its potential benefit of boosting the economy.
He also worries that the bond purchases will complicate the Fed's plans to reel in stimulus programs once the economy is healthier. Keeping those stimulus programs in place too long could also trigger high inflation, he said.
Plosser, 62, has defended his criticism of the Fed's program.
"Some have suggested that it is counter-productive for policymakers to express differing opinions, as it confuses markets and creates uncertainty," Plosser said earlier this month. "I find such arguments misdirected."
Plosser was named head of the regional Fed bank in August 2006. Earlier, he was an economics professor at the University of Rochester. He also served as a consultant to corporations, including Chase Manhattan Bank and Eastman Kodak Co. Plosser advised clients on strategic planning, forecasting, portfolio and pension fund management and capital budgeting.
As a policymaker, he has a reputation as an "inflation hawk" — that is, being especially vigilant about the risk of rising prices. (By contrast, inflation "doves" are known for being more intent on spurring economic growth than about fending off inflation.)
During the financial crisis, Plosser opposed Bernanke's deep interest rate cuts. He dissented at two of the Fed's 10 meetings that year.
Plosser earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Vanderbilt and doctorate and MBA degrees from the University of Chicago.
Fisher, who took over the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in 2005, also has been an outspoken critic of the bond-buying program. The Fed has done enough to aid the economy, Fisher has said.
"I think we have reached our limit," he said this month. He also expressed concern that the Fed was, in effect, printing money to pay for trillion-dollar-plus federal budget deficits.
"We have run the risk of being viewed as an accomplice to Congress' fiscal nonfeasance," he said.
Like Plosser, Fisher is known for being hawkish on inflation. During the financial crisis, he objected to the Fed's aggressive rate reductions. He dissented at five of the Fed's 10 meetings.
Fisher, 61, has worked in banking, ran his own investment firm and served at the Treasury Department in the Carter administration and as a trade official in the Clinton administration.
To pay his way through Harvard, Fisher worked three jobs. He holds an MBA from Stanford University.
Kocherlakota will become a voting member on the policymaking committee for the first time. As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Kocherlakota, 47, has backed Bernanke and defended the new program despite voicing some concerns about it.
The economy would be even weaker had the Fed not intervened, Kocherlakota said earlier this month. Earlier, though, Kocherlakota had said the benefit of the program was "likely to be relatively modest."
Fed watchers generally think that as a policymaker, Kocherlakota will lean toward hawkishness on inflation.
Kocherlakota graduated at 19 from Princeton with a bachelor's in mathematics and earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. Before taking over the Minneapolis Fed in 2009, Kocherlakota taught economics at the University of Minnesota.
Evans, 53, has been president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago since 2007. Unlike the three other regional bank presidents joining the FOMC this year, Evans' reputation as a policymaker puts him among the doves.
Evans has said the $600 billion bond-buying program is needed because "we still have a long road ahead" before the economy and employment get back to full health.
As a member of the FOMC in 2009, Evans supported the Fed's decisions to hold interest rates at record-low levels. He also backed the Fed's program to buy mortgage securities and government debt to lift the economy out of recession.
Before taking the regional bank's helm, Evans served as its director of research and senior vice president, supervising research on monetary policy, banking, financial markets and economic conditions.
Evans received a bachelor's in economics from the University of Virginia and a doctorate in economics from Carnegie-Melon University.
Last year, inflation hawk Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, was a sole voice of dissent. Hoenig has said he fears that by pouring more dollars into bonds and keeping a key interest rate near zero, the Fed will unleash inflation and new bubbles in prices of stocks or other assets that will eventually burst.
The Federal Open Market Committee is composed of the Fed's Board of Governors in Washington, which includes Bernanke. The board now totals six members but at full strength has seven members. It also includes the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and four of the remaining 11 presidents of the Fed's regional banks. They serve rotating one-year terms.
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