Herman Cain: Federal Reserve Chairman, Tea Party Champion

Joshua Green|The Atlantic

The businessman’s tenure with the Kansas City Fed should make for interesting debates with anti-Fed stalwart Ron Paul

There’s no question that Herman Cain is the big winner in the the latest national Gallup poll of Republican presidential primary contenders, where he won 8 percent support. That’s higher than Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum. Most voters still haven’t heard of Cain or think of him simply as the black tea party candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO who once hosted a talk radio show.

But Cain has a fascinating background and has followed a political path that’s the opposite of what you normally see. It’s not uncommon to move from the fringes of the business world to the center of the political world: Harry Truman was a haberdasher and became president; Tom DeLay was an exterminator and became House majority leader. But it’s rare for someone to journey from the top of the business world to the tea party political fringe. That’s what Cain has done. Although it hasn’t gotten much attention, he was actually chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank in the mid-1990s. That’s the epitome of the Establishment and the opposite of the tea party.

The Kansas City Fed is one of twelve regional banks that advise the Federal Reserve Board and initiate changes in the discount rate. The Kansas City Fed in particular has a reputation for monetary conservatism and distrust of central authority. (Along with the Dallas Fed, it’s one of only two Fed banks¬†currently pushing for higher discount rates.)¬†Curious about Cain’s chairmanship, I requested an interview with Thomas Hoenig, the president of the Kansas City Fed (then and now), who is a famous inflation hawk. I didn’t get to talk to Hoenig, but he sent along this statement:

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