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WATCH: Powell says Fed is focused on ‘controlling the controllable,’ not politics

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that he has not had any private conversations with President Donald Trump after the president criticized the Fed for raising interest rates.

Powell said the Federal Reserve is largely insulated from politics and instead focuses on “controlling the controllable.”

“We don’t let other things distract us, and we’re just going to focus on those jobs,” Powell said. “That’s just always how we’re going to be.”

The comments came as part of a conversation with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff during The Atlantic Festival in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates three times this year. Powell said the Fed will continue to monitor the situation carefully, balancing the risk of an economic slowdown with the risk of the economy overheating.

Other highlights of the conversation:

On tariffs: Powell said if the trade disputes end up creating lower tariffs between the U.S. and its trading partners, that would be good for all parties involved.

“If perhaps inadvertently we wind up instead in a more protectionist era where countries are putting tariffs back and forth on each other, then that will be bad for American workers and for the American economy,” Powell said.

On workers’ ability to bargain: Powell said there might be some truth to the idea that workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages has declined.

“In an era of globalization in an era of technological evolution. It may be that workers and companies have internalized the idea that lots and lots of jobs can be done all around the world or can be supplanted by technology,” Powell said.

But, Powell said, wages have started to tick up as the labor market tightens, so, he advised waiting before coming to any conclusion.

Watch the full interview between Woodruff and Powell in the player above, and see highlights on Wednesday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour.

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