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Alan Greenspan's reign as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors was "atypically long," according to several economists, even for what is supposed to be a long-term appointment.

"The Fed is a government agency, but it's supposed to be independent of politics," explained CUNA's Bill Hampel. "The board is made up of seven governors who are all appointed to 14-year terms. It's set up so that in theory, every two years someone is appointed to the board, and the only way a president could ever nominate a majority of the board would be if he was elected to two terms, and it wouldn't happen until toward the end of his second term."

But in Washington, things don't always go as planned.

"In practice, because 14 years is a long time, most don't serve out their entire terms-they leave their government posts to go into the private sector where they can make a lot more money," Hampel noted. "So, in fact, a president typically does get to appoint a majority of the board during his term."

Indeed, one of the reasons Greenspan's time at the Fed has seemed so long is that he was originally nominated to serve out the end of Paul Volkker's term, and was then reappointed at the end of that term, giving him more than 14 years on the board.

The seven Federal Reserve governors are joined by the heads of five of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks on a rotational basis to make up the Free Market Committee. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is the only one that has a permanent seat on the Free Market Committee because monitoring the market comes under its purview.

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