WASHINGTON – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used the first debate late Monday to attack the Federal Reserve Board, reiterating accusations that it has purposely kept interest rates low to help President Obama.
"We have a Fed that's doing political things … by keeping the interest rates at this level," Trump said.
The New York businessman went out of his way to criticize the Fed and – unusual for a major party's candidate – appeared to assert that the U.S. is on the verge of economic collapse.
"We're in a bubble right now. And the only thing that looks good is the stock market, but if you raise interest rates even a little bit, that's going to come crashing down," Trump said.
Last year, Trump said he respected Fed Chair Janet Yellen, but his tone has changed in recent months. On the campaign trail he has repeatedly accused the Fed of protecting President Obama.
Asked about his criticisms at a press conference last week, Yellen said politics were never even discussed by the Federal Open Market Committee, which she said uses a series of metrics to make its decision regarding interest rate hikes.
"Well, I think Congress very wisely established the Federal Reserve as an independent agency in order to insulate monetary policy from short-term political pressures. And I can say emphatically that partisan politics plays no role in our decisions about the appropriate stance of monetary policy," said Yellen, who will testify on the Fed's supervisory responsibilities before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has said that the president and candidates running for president should not weigh in on monetary policy decisions. She signed a letter with other lawmakers recently, however, that called for more diversity among Fed leadership.
During the debate, Trump and Clinton also sparred over government oversight of the private business sector. Trump has called for a moratorium on new regulations because overregulation is limiting economic growth.
"We have the worst revival of an economy since the Great Depression," Trump said. "You have regulations on top of regulations, and new companies cannot form and old companies are going out of business."
Clinton has said that she supports strengthening regulations for a number of industries, including the financial sector, and that she would strengthen the Dodd-Frank Act but reduce regulations for smaller companies and banks. "What I have proposed would cut regulations and streamline them for small businesses," she said.
She also said deregulatory policies contributed to the 2008 financial crisis and was critical of Trump, who publicly said he would like to see real estate prices fall further in the aftermath of the crash because it would create a valuable buying opportunity.
"Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, 'Gee, I hope it does collapse, because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.' Well, it did collapse," Clinton said.
"That's called business, by the way," Trump responded.