Power and pressure. Those are the two words that best describe Jerome Powell’s career, as well as his position as chairman of the Federal Reserve, although you could easily add “wealth” to the list given that Powell’s net worth is estimated to be $20-55 million.
Why the wide range? Well, Powell’s not young, of course, and he’s been an investment banker as well as a man who’s been described as “the world’s best bureaucrat.” He’s held a lot of positions and made a lot of money, so his career is definitely worth a deeper dive.
Powell made most of his big money in the late 90s and early 2000s when he was a partner in the Carlyle Group, which is a private equity firm.
His government career has been far more intriguing. Powell’s rise up the bureaucratic range began when he was tapped to serve as Under Secretary of the US Treasury by George W. Bush.
President Obama then nominated him for a position on the Fed’s Board of Governors, and in 2017 Donald Trump nominated him to be chairman of the Fed, a position with a four-year term that ends this year.
Not surprisingly, the pressure part started shortly after Trump nominated him. Apparently The Donald expected Powell to keep lowering interest rates, but Powell held firm for as long as he could, which triggered a steady stream of insults and character assassination rants from the now-former president.
But the fact that Trump won’t go away isn’t Powell’s only problem. He’s under the gun to use interest rates to control rising inflation, a task that’s virtually impossible given how badly broken the supply chain is right now. Powell made a promise last year not to boost interest rates until employment rates improve and inflation rates rise above an average target of 2 percent.
He’s one for two in that department-employment rates have gotten better, but inflation promises to be a lingering issue until the end of his term. The Fed just signaled a rate bump, so don’t expect the temperature to go down any time soon.
Given the issues at hand, it shouldn’t be shocking that NPR has claimed that Powell was the most ridiculed Fed chairman ever, and part of the ridicule stems from Powell’s background and his approach to the job.
He’s actually the first Fed chairman to have the job with no formal training in economics. He made it clear that he had a lot to learn, and while he’s gone about that in a methodical way, that hasn’t exactly endeared him to his many critics.
That doesn’t seem to faze the methodical Powell much at all. During Trump’s problematic term, Powell stated, “We won’t make mistakes of integrity or character,” a statement that doubtless helped fuel the barrage of criticism and insults that followed.
While Powell’s public life with the Fed has been full of onslaughts and ongoing controversy, his private life has been placid and calm by comparison. He has been married to Elissa Leonard since 1985, and the couple lives just outside DC in the toney Maryland suburb of Chevy Chase. They have three children, and like many high-level government officials, Powell tends to work hard to keep his family out of the limelight