One of the big problems with media "fact checkers" is the presumption of expertise that the reporter doesn't actually have. Sitting around googling whenever a politician opens his or her mouth often means a rush to judgment, and the results can be embarassing. Last night, Politico Pro sent out the following story:
Fact check: The president can’t fire Yellen
By Jon Prior
12:18 AM EDT
A few candidates after the debate talked about whether they would replace Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen after criticizing the central bank for keeping interest rates too low for too long.
Some Republicans during the undercard debate said they would flat out fire her.
But the central bank is designed to prevent the executive branch from getting rid a confirmed chair if an administration doesn't like what the Fed is doing. This is meant to shield the central bank from political influence.
Yellen was confirmed by the Senate in January 2014, and once confirmed, a Fed Chair is given a 14-year term. So, the next president would have to change the law to be able to fire her if she refused to step down.
Fed officials actually meet next month when they're expected by some economists to begin slowly raising its main borrowing rate for the first time since 2006.
In a former journalistic life, I covered the Federal Reserve. Even after years of doing nothing but reporting on the Fed, I hardly consider myself an expert on the institution. (To this day, the phrase "credit default swaps" makes my eyes glaze over.) However, the basic aspects of how the Fed works are obvious enough.
And Politico is flat wrong here. The next president will, in fact, have an opportunity to effectively fire Yellen as Fed chair at least. In order to be the Fed chair, you have to first be appointed from the board of governors by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Members of the board serve 14-year terms. Fed chairs are appointed from the board of governors by the president confirmed by the Senate but only serve four year terms. Yellen joined the board of governors as vice-chair in 2010, so she'll be on the board until 2024. But she was appointed Fed chair in 2014, so her term as Fed chair expires in 2018.
In other words, the next president will absolutely have an opportunity to select someone else to run the Fed. Politico has run a tepid correction rewritten the story in a way that that doesn't exactly acknowledge how wrong their original report is. They seem to be doing that a lot these days.