The only other agency of the federal government where Latinos have not become commonly employed nor have an appointed presence on the governing boards besides the intelligence community is the Federal Reserve System and its myriad components. At the national level, the Fed’s Board of Governors has only seven members appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate for a fourteen year term. The Fed can readily be described as the ultimate or most powerful and influential regulatory body. It is the economy’s central nervous system.
Most observers in Washington and for that matter the whole country too often lack clarity in noting that the Federal Reserve truly is the ultimate policy entity to modify, adjust, and re-define key elements of the world’s richest and most powerful economy. Moreover, the Fed’s board is independent of the Executive branch and is supposed to be free of political influence. The US Congress has oversight responsibility over its actions. The Federal Reserve Board like so many of the regulatory boards in Washington is safeguarded by this independence.
The stated reason for the creation of the federal reserve in 1913 just as Woodrow Wilson took over the presidency: to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible and more stable monetary/financial system. The four duties (areas) of the federal reserve are commonly known as the following:
• conducting the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates
• supervising and regulating banking institutions to ensure the safety and soundness of the nation’s banking and financial system and to protect the credit rights of consumers
• maintaining the stability of the financial system and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets
• providing financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions, including playing a major role in operating the nation’s payments system
The Federal Reserve System with Washington as its headquarters has twelve (12) regional banks. Interestingly enough, these regional banks are privately owned but are members of the Federal Reserve System. These include the first among equals (primus inter pares) New York, then Boston, Richmond, Cleveland, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, Minneapolis, San Francisco and St. Louis. Many of these cities or regions have vast numbers of Latinos. Out west, San Francisco is the only regional Federal Reserve Bank west of the Rockies. The next three mid-western regions are Minneapolis, Kansas City and Dallas. The numbers of Latinos in these western states is most impressive and growing. Certainly Dallas, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta have also huge portions of the 46 million Hispanics nationwide. The current census being conducted and analyzed will help provide a clearer picture of the numbers and where they are living. But it can be argued that as of now out west with San Francisco as the only geographically western Federal Reserve Bank, the Hispanic congressional representation breaks down this way: the west has the majority with six in California (Roybal-Allard, Baca, Becerra, Napolitano, the two Sanchez sisters); one each in Colorado (Salazar) and New Mexico (Lujan) and two in Arizona (Grijalva and Pastor) and Dallas region has six (Ortiz, Gonzalez, Rodriguez, Cuellar, Hinojosa and Reyes) all in Texas. Chicago region has one Latino congressman (Gutierrez) and the New York region has two (Serrano and Velazquez) plus one congressman (Sires) from Northern New Jersey and the only Latino senator (Menendez) in the country (NJ). Atlanta has three from Florida (two Diaz-Balart brothers and Ros-Lehtinen). Therefore, the San Francisco and Dallas Federal Reserve Regions have over 15 Latino congressmen. Salazar in Colorado belongs to the Kansas City region; Atlanta is the third region to have Latino congressional representation. A closer look at these regional/sub-regional Federal Reserve Banks reveals few if any Latino representation on the regional bank boards.
In examining the composition of the scores of directors of these regional Federal Reserve Boards, only Dallas appears to have more than one Latino director. At the regional level, there is one (Roberto Estrada) of the main Dallas bank and at its sub-regional level San Antonio has four: Jorge Bermudez, Ricardo Romo, Ygnacio Garza and C. Treviño. Atlanta has one, Carol Tome at the regional director level. In the Atlanta region, Miami is touted as the banking center for Latin America, yet only one, Latino director is detected (Carol Tome). San Francisco has none at the regional or sub-regional level. Boston has one Luso-American (Portuguese: Cunha) on the board. Richmond, Cleveland, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Philadelphia don’t have any Latino sounding names on their boards. Interestingly enough, the leader of the regional pack, New York has one at the substantive level of director, Richard Carrion from Puerto Rico’s Banco Popular, but alas no other…More revealing is Kansas City with Lu Cordova from Boulder, Colorado as a key director, but uncertain that this board member is considered to be Hispanic. The sum of Latino representation in the Federal Reserve System’s decision-making circles is at best bleak.
As for the Fed’s board in Washington, the most powerful and key tool in the US economy, there is no Latino and never has been one. Yet, the Hispanic population is estimated now at least to be over 15% of the US overall population. The contribution by the Latino community to the US multi-trillion dollar economy is increasingly significant. It is rarely heard among the Hispanic congressional and Civic leadership on how the Fed affects the community in its operations or implementation of public economic policy. Plainly, the Fed’s actions affecting the money supply, credit, the cost of money, interest rates and how remittances are affected by supervising the flow of money transfers or exchange fluctuations have an increasingly important impact on the Latino community. Perhaps, the Obama administration will discover or find a qualified high-flyer Latino economist or financial type to serve on the Fed’s board. If we continue to wait for the nominal Hispanic leadership or self-styled Latino advocacy groups to discover the wondrous powers of the Federal Reserve, we could be in for a long wait. The growing awareness of the functions of the US economy in the context of the recent financial crisis and housing bubble along with high unemployment rates behooves the Latino community to seek greater representation and participation at the highest levels of the decision-making process.