(Adds Obama in 12th and 13th paragraphs.)
Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said protests against Wall Street and the central bank stem from frustration with unemployment, and he sympathizes with the discontent.
The U.S. faces stalled job growth, and “too many” of its workers are unemployed, Fisher said in a speech today in Fort Worth, Texas. The policy maker dissented at each of the past two Federal Open Market Committee meetings in August and September, opposing plans to hold rates low until at least mid-2013 and to swap short-term securities in the Fed’s portfolio with longer- term debt.
“I’m somewhat sympathetic” to the demonstrations, Fisher said. “We have too many people out of work. We have very uneven distribution of income.”
Demonstrators from New York City to San Francisco took to the streets to protest what they call a growing wealth disparity between large U.S. corporations and average citizens in the wake of the financial crisis. Picketers marched in San Francisco yesterday as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began three weeks ago in lower Manhattan and has spread to cities from Dallas to San Francisco.
The jobless rate in August was 9.1 percent. Employers that month added zero jobs to payrolls, down from 85,000 in July, according to the Labor Department.
“We have a very frustrated people and I can understand their frustration,” Fisher said. He reiterated his view that the Fed “can’t do everything” to cure what ails the economy and there’s “a danger if we go too far.”
Fisher, 62, spoke on the topic of “Texas: What Makes Us Exceptional; What Makes Us Vulnerable?” at the Texas Economic Development Council’s 2011 Annual Conference and 50th Anniversary Celebration.
The U.S. has become a “national economic desert devoid of job creation,” with Texas providing an “oasis,” Fisher said.
A key to the state’s success “lies in its ability to change and adapt” to a rapidly globalized economy, and job growth should continue at “a moderate pace,” Fisher said. Texas had an 8.5 percent jobless rate in August.
While the state benefits from high commodity prices, it “continues to be handicapped by low levels of construction activity and moderate gains in consumer spending and demand,” he said.
Fisher dissented at the FOMC’s Sept. 20-21 meeting against the group’s decision to push down longer-term interest rates, saying he did not prefer to undertake further easing, according to an FOMC statement. He also challenged the committee’s Aug. 9 pledge to keep the benchmark U.S. interest rate low through at least mid-2013, preferring instead to maintain a previous commitment to do so for “an extended period.”
President Barack Obama, appearing at a White House news conference today, said the anti-Wall Street protesters are “giving voice” to wider frustration with the U.S. financial system.
“The American people understand that not everybody’s been following the rules, that Wall Street is an example of that,” he said, while stopping short of endorsing the demonstrations. The protests are a result of “broad-based” dissatisfaction growing out of the financial crisis.
--With assistance from Esmé E. Deprez in New York and Alison Vekshin in San Francisco and Roger Runningen in Washington. Editors: James L Tyson, Christopher Wellisz
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