The best seat
Federal Reserve governor Sarah Bloom Raskin offered some eloquent thoughts today on policymakers' perspectives on the economy:
I'm not sure when you last found yourself in a planetarium. At the start of my most recent visit, I was handed a brochure that said "Sit anywhere. All seats provide equal viewing of the universe." I took the brochure but instead of contemplating the stars, I contemplated my job as a governor on the Federal Reserve Board. And it occurred to me that the brochure was wrong. Completely wrong. All seats do not provide equal viewing of the universe. Some seats are better than others. It's not just that the Big Dipper is clearer than Ursa Minor from certain seats. If you want, for example, to see the economy, you don't necessarily want to always be sitting in Washington. That is not a seat that tells you everything you need to know about the economy. You have to break out, set free, and hightail it out of the Beltway to Los Angeles. It's critical to appropriate policymaking that we get a multidimensional view of the so-called economic universe.
True. But important to note that the greater D.C. area - not just that downtown area where the policy gets made - has quite a few stories to tell about the recession, too.
Raskin's remarks raise the question of how policymakers ought to balance their time. This is true not just for Fed Board members, but for those deciding the fate of the nation's schools, its health care, its roads. How much time should they spend outside of Washington to gain that understanding, instead of crunching numbers in D.C.?
From that perspective, it is an understatement to say that these are profoundly challenging times for millions of Americans.