Connect with us

News

Shelby Criticizes Fed for Lack of Transparency and Forays into Partisanship

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama urges the Federal Reserve to be more transparent at a Thursday hearing on the Federal Reserve’s Semiannual Monetary Report to the Congress.  Sen. Shelby released his remarks in a press release.  Senator Shelby is the ranking Republican on the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Sen. Shelby said, “Since the Federal Reserve took unprecedented actions in response to the financial crisis, there has been a growing recognition that the Fed needs to become more transparent.  There was a time when central bankers met behind closed doors and stubbornly refused to inform the public of their decisions.  Those days are clearly over.

Sen. Shelby continued, “The public now rightly demands that policymakers not only explain their decisions, but also be accountable for their actions.  This is especially true of the Fed, which, thanks to Dodd-Frank, now exercises even greater authority over the American economy and the lives of every American.”

“To his credit, Chairman Bernanke has long recognized the need to modernize the Fed.  In his first confirmation hearing, he stated that he believed making the Fed more transparent would ‘increase democratic accountability, promote constructive dialogue between policymakers and informed outsiders, and reduce uncertainty in financial markets and help anchor the public’s expectations of long-run inflation.’  During Chairman Bernanke’s last Humphrey-Hawkins appearance, I noted that he has taken some important steps to improve the transparency of the FOMC, including holding press conferences to discuss monetary policy,” Shelby said.

“Since then, the FOMC has taken another step to improve transparency by adopting an explicit inflation goal of two percent.”  “Yet, it remains uncertain if the Fed’s recently announced inflation goal will achieve these objectives.  While the Fed was establishing its inflation goal, it was, at the same time, communicating contradictory signals about its commitment to that inflation target.  The FOMC minutes reveal that Chairman Bernanke indicated that he believed the inflation goal would not represent a change in the FOMC’s policy.” “In addition, the FOMC has stated that it believes economic conditions are ‘likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014.’  In other words, the Fed is signaling to market participants that it expects to continue its near-zero interest rate policy for at least three more years.”

Shelby warned, “This begs the question: is the FOMC focused on targeting low interest rates or its new inflation goal?  If the inflation goal conflicts with keeping interest rates near zero, which target will prevail?  In other words, why should market participants have confidence that the Fed is actually committed to achieving its inflation goal?  And if the Fed is not serious about achieving its inflation goal, how will the Fed’s credibility suffer when inflation rises above 2 percent?”

Public Service Announcement

Senator Shelby said, “While the Chairman has taken steps to improve the transparency of the FOMC, the transparency of the Board of Governors appears to be getting worse.  A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that the Board has held 47 separate votes on financial regulations since Dodd-Frank became law, yet they have held only two public meetings.  The article noted that there has been a steady reduction in the number of open meetings by the Board since the early 1980s, when the Board had more than 30 open meetings.  As a result, the Fed is making sweeping financial regulatory policy decisions behind closed doors.  This is inconsistent with Chairman Bernanke’s professed goal of making the Fed more transparent.”

Senator Shelby warned that the Federal Reserve Governors were treading into partisan political issues.  Shelby said, “In another troubling new development, the Fed recently decided to enter into the debate on housing policy.  On January 4th, the Fed issued a white paper entitled ‘The U.S. Housing Market: Current Conditions and Policy Considerations.’  The stated goal of the paper was ‘not to provide a blueprint, but rather to outline issues and tradeoffs that policymakers might consider.’ ““In weighing in on housing policy, certain Fed Governors have begun to take sides in what should be a Congressional policy debate.  The Fed’s independence for monetary policy has always been premised on it remaining nonpartisan and not advocating for specific legislative measures.  The Fed has been and should continue to be a useful resource for information and analysis on the housing market.   It should not, however, become an active participant in the legislative debate over the future of housing finance.  Accordingly, I hope that the Fed’s recent foray into housing policy will not become common practice.”

The Federal Reserve System was founded by Congress in 1913.  It is the central bank of the United States.  According to the Federal Reserve’s website, the Federal Reserve’s duties involve four main areas:

ADVERTISEMENT

1) “conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates

2) “supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers”

3) “maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets”

4) “providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation’s payments system”

The Federal Reserve System has come under greater criticism after its failure to either prevent or accurately predict the housing crisis and the resulting Great Recession of 2008-2010.  Presidential Candidate and Congressman Ron Paul (R) from Texas has based much of his campaign on his criticism of the Federal Reserve System.

To read Senator Shelby’s comments in their entirety:

http://shelby.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/3/shelby-presses-fed-to-be-nonpartisan-transparent-and-accountable

To learn more about the Federal Reserve

http://www.federalreserve.gov/pf/pf.htm

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

Advertisement

Elections

Trump Truck and boat parades this weekend

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Trump boat parade

As Election Day draws near, Alabama Republicans are excited about promoting the re-election of Donald J. Trump as President and the election of Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate. This weekend two pro-President Trump events are happening in the state. There will be a truck parade from Ashland to Phenix City on Saturday sponsored by the Clay County Republican Party, while there will also be a boat parade on Wilson Lake in the Shoals sponsored by the Colbert County Republican Party on Sunday.

The pickup trucks will assemble at the Ashland Industrial Park in Clay County, 8240 Hwy 9, Ashland. There is a pre-departure rally at 10:00 a.m. central standard time. The trucks will depart at 11:00 a.m. and then proceed on a parade route that will take them into the bitterly contested swing state of Georgia. The Trump Pickup Parade will wind through east Alabama and West Georgia traveling through LaGrange and Columbus before concluding near the Alabama/Georgia line in Phenix City, 332 Woodland Drive, Phenix City at approximately 2:00 p.m. central time. Speakers will begin at 3:00. Trump flags will be on sale at the event.

The Phenix Motorsports Park will be hosting what sponsor hope could possibly the world’s largest Pickup Tuck parade in U.S. history that is routing over 50 mile through Georgia in effort to “pickup” President Trump’s numbers in GA.

A number dignitaries have been invited to address the Phenix City rally, including Coach Tuberville. Former State Sen. Shadrack McGill, Trump Victory Finance Committee member former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., and Paul Wellborn, the President and CEO of the largest Family owned Kitchen Cabinet manufacture in the USA are among the featured speakers who have committed to speak at the event.

Entertainment will be provided by: Charity Bowden, an up and coming country music singer who was the runner up on “The Voice”. Charity will sing ‘I am Proud to be an American’ as well as songs from her Voice performances. The McGill Girls will also perform. The three beautiful and talented sisters will be singing patriotic songs in three part harmony. Geoff Carlisle, a professional DJ will be keeping the crowd pumped with music and entertainment.

Following the speakers and the entertainment there will Trump truck-vs- Joe Bidden truck races down the drag strip for the finale.

The Northwest Alabama boat parade will be on Sunday. The boats will gather at 2:00 p.m. near Turtle Point and then the flotilla will parade around the open waters of Wilson Lake til 3_00 p.m.. There will be a contest for best decorated Trump boats.

Public Service Announcement

Trump supporters have held a number of large boat parades across the state to show their support for the re-election of Pres. Trump.

Boat parade sponsors say that this parade will be: pro-American, pro-law enforcement, pro-military.

Continue Reading

Health

COVID-19 hospitalizations, new cases continue to rise

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

COVID-19 Corona Influenza Virus Molecules Image Stock Photo

The number of rising hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama is a concerning sign of a possible coming surge of the disease, state health experts said Friday. Alabama hospitals were caring for 888 coronavirus patients Friday, the highest number since Sept 9. 

UAB Hospital was caring for around 80 COVID-19 inpatients Friday afternoon, said Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, speaking to reporters Friday. UAB Hospital hasn’t had that many coronavirus inpatients since Aug. 18, when the disease was surging statewide.

“We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard,” Lee said. 

Alabama added 3,852 new coronavirus cases on Friday, but 1,287 of them were older positive antigen tests, conducted in June through October and submitted to ADPH by a facility in Mobile, according to the department. Still, Alabama’s daily case count has been increasing, concerning health officials already worried that as the weather turns colder and the flu season ramps up, Alabama could see a surge like the state had in July.

Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases was 1,247 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept 4. Over the last 14 days, Alabama has added 17,451 new COVID-19 cases.

Public Service Announcement

Friday’s inclusion of those older positive test results throws off the day’s percent positivity, by Thursday the state’s percent of tests that were positive was nearly 16 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.

The state added 16 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing to total confirmed deaths statewide to 2,859. Over the last two weeks, 206 deaths were reported in the state. Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily deaths on Friday was 15.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”

Harris noted the data dump of older confirmed cases in Friday’s data, but said “but nevertheless, I think it’s clear our numbers are going up.”

Harris said it’s not yet clear what’s causing the continued spread, but said it may be due at least in part to larger private gatherings. ADPH staff has mentioned a few outbreaks association with such gatherings, but Harris said it’s hard to know for certain if that’s the major driver in the state’s rising numbers.

“It’s football season and the holidays are coming up and school is back in session,” Harris said. “I think people are just not being as safe as they were.”

Harris noted that on ADPH’s color-coded, risk indicator dashboard, red counties, which denotes counties with rising cases and percent positivity, the 17 red counties on Friday were distributed across the state.

“So there’s not one event, or even a handful of events. It seems like there’s just a lot of things happening in a lot of places,” Harris said.

Alabama’s rising numbers are mirrored in many states. The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearing the country’s record highs, set in July.

Continue Reading

News

Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology

Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

John H. Glenn

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.

Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”

The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.

Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.

“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”

Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.

“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.

Public Service Announcement

Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”

Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.

ADVERTISEMENT

The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”

Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.

“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”

District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.

“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”

District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” 
Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”

Continue Reading

Elections

Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies

Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

Josh Moon

Published

on

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones speaks during the Democratic National Convention.

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C. 

Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.  

But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump. 

“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”

Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity. 

“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”

Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home. 

Public Service Announcement

“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat. 

“I rest my case.”

You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement