Robert Kaplan, president of the Dallas Fed, told CNBC on Wednesday that it is likely appropriate to keep interest rates near zero for up to three years to help the US economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think we have to keep the Fed's key interest rate at zero … for the next probably 2½ to 3 years," Kaplan told The Exchange. "It could take so long to get on the right track, weather the crisis and be on the right track to meet our goals of full employment and price stability."
Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve Political Committee voted to keep short-term rates at 0% to 0.25%, where they have been for six months, and said they would stay there until inflation steadily rose.
Kaplan was one of two members of the Federal Open Market Committee who voted against the political action, but stressed Wednesday that the central bank wants more leeway in its monetary approach.
"My contradiction is about making commitments beyond that point. I think beyond that point I'd rather we keep some flexibility," said Kaplan, while the Fed's new average anti-inflation policy likely means lower interest rates, even if the unemployment rate falls.
"I don't know if that will be appropriate. Historically, it would not have been so," added Kaplan, who has headed the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas since 2015. "With the new framework and our inflation targets, I think we will be more accommodating than in the past, but I don't know if we want to commit to keeping rates at zero until we hit those targets."
However, Kaplan stressed that he continued to believe in the central bank's accommodative stance in response to the pandemic.
"Of course we're taking extraordinary measures, not just the Fed's policy rate, but what we're doing with the 13 (3) programs and asset purchases, but we have to do it because it's a crisis," Kaplan said and added referred to emergency lending under the 13 (3) powers of the Federal Reserve Act.
Kaplan warned, however, that the central bank's capabilities for the US economy were limited and that there was a need for more incentives from Congress to offset lost income.
After weeks of stalemate between Democratic negotiators and representatives of the Trump administration, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that he was "hopeful" that there could be a deal.
"One of the unusual things about this pandemic has been consumer income and consumer spending, and a big reason for that is financial support," Kaplan said. "I think it would create downside risk if we didn't get this tax support."