A former member of the Federal Reserve who will be in Chattanooga today said she believes recent actions by the Fed’s current members have led to some stability in the market, but there is still a way to go before the economy fully recovers.
“I think the Fed has been very creative in identifying particular markets where there have been real constrained credit conditions and tried to address those piece by piece,” said Susan M. Phillips, who served on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve from 1991 to 1998. Dr. Phillips currently is dean of the George Washington University School of Business in Washington, D.C.
“(The current Fed has) lowered interest rates, which lowers the cost of money, but we still have a fragile market situation. But I think that the actions they have taken have helped.”
Dr. Phillips is scheduled to be the featured speaker today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Women Accountants. The event is being held at The Chattanoogan hotel at 11:30 a.m.
In her talk she will discuss the convergence of international accounting standards, a topic she said that is very different from the state of the nation’s economy.
Chattanooga is very fortunate to have someone as notable as Dr. Phillips, said Dr. Richard Casavant, dean of the College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“For us here at the business college, it is a big deal to have, not only for me, a fellow dean of the George Washington school of business, but also someone so well-connected and so active in the national community,” Dr. Casavant said. “We’re looking forward to it and hearing what she has to say.”
Dr. Phillips also has served on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, where she was chairman in 1983.
Her time on the Federal Reserve Board in the 1990s was similar in a way to what the country is going through now. The country was in a slowdown then, but it was worse in a way because unemployment was higher, she said.
“The first years that I was on the Fed, there was certainly some similarity, but there are certainly massive differences now,” she said, pointing to the energy cost increases and commodity prices increases. “There are definitely differences, but when you are on the Federal Reserve there is always something going on.”
Dr. Phillips’ opinion of the stimulus checks that began landing in taxpayers’ bank accounts this month is a little less rosy, she said. The checks, meant to encourage people to put money back into the economy, may or may not have the desired effect, she said. “People may use that just to pay bills, and that doesn’t cause a stimulus effect, per se,” she said.
But, she said, if the $300 and up checks are used to pay bills, it may free up money to spend now, having somewhat of a stimulus effect.
“I guess I am a little skeptical that that is going to make as much a difference as a lot of people hope,” she said. “I think it will make a marginal difference.”
She said she feels that, while it is hard to predict how long the current slowdown will last, she is hopeful the country will begin to see some improvement in the second half of this year, though it may not be much.
“Once you get some improvement started, then it could continue into 2009,” she said. “Different parts of the economy are affected differently, so it’s not a linear, all-boats-rising-at-one-time kind of effect, so I think we will see some industries improving before others.”