Neel Kashkari has tried to experience homelessness in Fresno, Calif., floated the idea of breaking up the big banks, and promised to spend a day in the life with a lower-income woman in north Minneapolis.
So answering questions on Twitter for an hour isn’t the most unconventional thing he’s done or will do, but it was a first for a senior Fed official.
Kashkari, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, on Friday took to the internet under the hashtag #askneel and answered questions on topics ranging from monetary policy to the state of technological innovation to the Cleveland Browns.
Often, he wrote in the abbreviated style made necessary by Twitter’s limit of 140 characters per message.
“Believe still slack in labor mkt,” he wrote in response to a question about whether low interest rates could overheat the economy. “Want to see headline unemploy rate come down as sign fewer people coming off sideline. Don’t see it yet.”
He said he believes the long-run growth rate of the U.S. economy is about 2 percent, and exchanged tweets with Rep. Tom Emmer, who asked whether that’s a problem for Minnesota.
“Its a problem — for MN and for US,” Kashkari tweeted. “Need 2 get growth back up. But Fed can’t do it. Need your help Congressman! :)”
A spokesman for the Minneapolis Fed said Kashkari was choosing questions and typing the tweets himself, while staffers helped him sort through the flood of questions.
Kashkari has displayed a flair for public relations since taking charge of the Minneapolis Fed in January, but more and more economic policy types have made use of Twitter in recent years. Kashkari’s predecessor, Narayana Kocherlakota, for instance, has built a loyal following on the site as he’s started writing columns for Bloomberg. On the Friday morning each month when U.S. jobs data are released, several prominent economists and journalists react to it in real time with a rolling conversation over Twitter.
On Friday, Kashkari fielded several questions about interest rates, and inflation. He argued that inflation remains low and that there are still too many people not working for the Fed to start raising interest rates. He is a nonvoting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates for the economy.
Asked whether low interest rates have enabled inaction by Congress, he said “Tough to know. What’s the alternative? Do nothing to force their hand? Doesn’t seem like a good strategy.”
He argued that central banks can only stimulate short-term growth, and that long-term growth comes from “innovation/education/productivity.” He also said that population growth is an important driver of economic growth, so either the country must boost fertility or allow more immigration.
Not all the questions were serious, nor were his answers.
Janet Yellen has a “sharp sense of humor — and is very collegial,” Kashkari tweeted.
A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, he was asked whether the Fed will hire Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. “We follow the rules,” he replied.
He said he’s an adopted Vikings fan, but if the Vikings and Browns meet in the Super Bowl, “I am staying loyal to the @Browns. Not a high risk!”
And asked for his favorite thing about living in Minneapolis, he said something most Minnesotans can agree on.
“Summers are absolutely beautiful. So green,” he tweeted. “Great restaurants too. Good people. Very nice place to live.”