Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement at a full Committee hearing entitled, “Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy.”
I want to start by reiterating that I join with President Biden and our allies in condemning Russia’s shameful, premeditated, and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. I stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
Chair Pro Tempore Powell, since the last time you testified in July 2021, the United States economy has continued to boom and our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is strong. Since the beginning of the Biden Administration in January 2021, our economy added over 7 million jobs, a record in the first year of a new presidency. In addition, wages and salaries for workers grew by 4.5% in 2021—the highest level in close to 40 years.
While these are encouraging figures, we have more work ahead. Families across the nation are facing higher prices because of inflation created not only by pandemic-related supply chain problems, but also giant corporations taking advantage of economic conditions to pass on higher prices to consumers. Importantly, housing is a key measure and driver of inflation. For too long, we have not addressed the shortfall in our housing supply, and this lack of supply is driving up prices. In 2021, the national median rent for an apartment jumped by almost 18%, and home prices rose by 17%. These are the true drivers of inflation, according to experts, despite repeated efforts on the part of Republicans to falsely blame pandemic relief and emergency stimulus as the primary cause.
To address housing supply and other inflation drivers, the House passed the Build Back Better Act and America COMPETES, which make transformational investments, including $150 billion in equitable and affordable housing, as well as improvements to our supply chains.
Regarding digital assets, the Federal Reserve recently released a paper seeking public feedback on a possible U.S. central bank digital currency, or CBDC, which could provide an alternative to volatile cryptocurrencies and benefit financial inclusion and promote national security. On the other side of that digital coin is the concern that pariah states like Russia may use foreign CBDCs to relieve the pressure of our carefully coordinated multilateral sanctions. Leadership from the Fed on these issues is more important than ever.
Lastly, I would note that for the first time a “Chair Pro Tempore” of the Federal Reserve Board is testifying at this hearing. Senate Republicans have chosen to unilaterally block your confirmation, Chair Pro Tempore Powell, and the historic confirmation of diverse and highly qualified nominees to the Board of Governors, leaving key leadership positions at the Federal Reserve vacant when it is tackling an array of economic issues, including those arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This will undermine our recovery from the pandemic and place our economy and financial stability at risk. At a time of enormous economic uncertainty, rising prices, and geopolitical turmoil, the Fed’s legitimacy is on the line. Now is not the moment for obstruction, delay, and gamesmanship.
So, Chair Pro Tempore Powell, I look forward to your testimony this morning.