If Yellen gets replaced, who might take her spot? For some time, many guessed Gary Cohn, the president’s senior economic advisor and a Goldman Sachs alum. But after Cohn criticized Trump’s response to the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, the speculation has been that Cohn’s prospects have diminished. Other possibilities that have been floated by analysts and economists include Kevin Warsh, a Wall Street veteran who worked for the Fed under George W. Bush; Jonathan Taylor, a professor at Stanford; Marvin Goodfriend, an economist; and Glenn Hubbard, a professor at Columbia University. Each of these people have been critical of some aspect of the Fed under the Obama administration and during Yellen’s tenure. Their gripes have included the use of prolonged expansionary policy (which aims to increase money supply and spur economic growth), the increasing regulation of financial sector, and the reliance on the Fed for economic support in the post-recession years.
The end of Yellen’s term has been known for a while, but recently another key Fed position opened up rather unexpectedly. Earlier this month, a year before his term ends, Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer announced that he’ll be resigning in the next month. (He cited personal reasons, but didn’t elaborate on them.) Around the same time, the nominations of Trump’s first two picks for the board finally made their way through the Senate banking committee, and are now expected to be fully confirmed in the Senate. Those include Randal Quarles as vice chair of supervision, to oversee the U.S. banking system, and Joseph Otting as comptroller of the currency, who watches over the day-to-day operations of some of the nation’s largest banks. Fischer will likely depart before those nominations go through, which will leave the board with only three of its seven seats filled, the lowest number in Fed history.
Trump’s picks—both the ones he’s made and the ones he will make—say a lot about the direction his administration wants to push the Fed in. Those in the running might differ in some of their views, but they all likely will have the same end goals, says Michael Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Those goals likely include a shift in monetary policy, from infrequent and small interest-rate hikes (in the hopes of triggering lower unemployment and more growth) to more aggressive rate hikes (in the hopes of hitting target inflation and benefiting some investors and lenders). There would also like be a focus on slackening regulation and oversight of the financial sector. Josh Bivens, an economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, says Americans should be particularly concerned that a remade Fed might do less monitoring of Wall Street. “They're going to be really hostile to financial-sector regulation,” Bivens says. “I think that's absolutely going to be a key characteristic of people who are appointed.” Another worry Bivens has is that in the event of another recession, a firmly conservative Fed board may be less willing to employ the quantitative-easing strategies that the Fed did under Yellen.