Comfy Town USA: Richard Fisher’s Dallas Fed

Nine Weeks Vacation Pay, Subsidized Cafeteria and Gym

Pensions After 15 years Service

A guest post by Benjamin Cole

The United States is glacially grinding out of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, but life has been comfy at Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher’s HQ.

The exuberant Dallas central banker Fisher is the implacable foe of even microscopic inflation; in April 2009 he declared: “I consider inflation an evil spirit that rots the core of economic prosperity and must never, ever be countenanced.”

Fisher said that in…Japan. But forget Japan, it is far away.

At the Dallas Fed life is good. Payrolls there are rising, there’s a great “work-life” balance and lush benefits—or so say employees who post workplace reviews on website Glassdoor.com.

Inside the Dallas Fed—one of 12 regional banks of the U.S. Federal Reserve system—the Great Recession and the Glacial Recovery are but passing curiosities.

Here are some employee reviews of the Dallas Fed from the Glassdoor.com.

• “Excellent salary, nine weeks vacation, telecommute two  days per week.”

• “The benefits here are just amazing, and the best package I have ever seen.”

• “The culture is great. It is a family environment and people truly care about your development as a professional. There are great benefits and the building is really beautiful.”

• “Also, Thursday barbecue is surprisingly good. Another perk is the beauty of the Dallas campus given the upper level gardens and gallery of artwork/sculptures.”

• “If you are not in IT, you probably won’t work more than 40/week.”

• “Great insurance. Great retirement plan, can draw pension after 15 years, and other nice retirement options prior to that milestone. Low-pressure work environment.”

• “Additionally, I have been given the opportunity to continue my education at the Bank’s expense (tuition reimbursement).”

• “Employees are friendly and always willing to provide help and support. Top-notch facilities. Flexible hours provided a good work-life balance.”

However, a variation of one “con” does show up frequently in employee reviews:

• “Stifles any creative thought and therefore doesn’t encourage hiring and retention of bright people… ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ is a common rebuttal.”

•”Some employees that have worked here for a long time are reluctant to new ideas and change.”

Job security, great pay and benefits and a gorgeous campus with sculptures. To avoid repetition, the near-universal praise for the Dallas Fed’s in-house and subsidized cafeteria—it must be one of the great dining halls in the State of Texas—is not repeated here. Even disgruntled “trolls” who infest any review website gush about the cafeteria and the on-campus gym.

Concerns About Bubbles?

But some concerns about Fisher’s comfy Dallas campus might be warranted—for example, imagine that the working conditions for the 1,340 employees of the $214 million-a-year in outlays of the Dallas Fed are duplicated at the other 11 regional banks and at the Federal Reserve HQ in Washington D.C.

That would create a central bank bubble-world, an entire organization and culture divorced from—even impervious to—the recession at their doorsteps.

Or worse.

As the bulked-up national and regional economics staffs of the Fed know, their pay is fixed by sinecure-like rules, and not leashed to the economy. Fed staffers are not real estate brokers or developers, furniture retailers, truck drivers or small business operators whose economic fortunes so often rise and fall with macroeconomic prosperity.

In fact, people on fixed incomes (that is, Fed staffers) generally prefer deflation—lower house prices and interest rates would favor the Dallas Fed economist looking to buy a home.

Multiply that sentiment by the number of employees inside the Fed and you get a feeling for Fed culture, although I suspect Richard Fisher is sui generis.

What If?

Suppose the Dallas Fed felt the brunt of a recession the way hundreds of millions of American workers and businesses do and did.

Let us say in 2008 that then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke decided to shutter the Dallas Fed and fold its operations into the Kansas City Fed. That sort of creative destruction or efficiency happens every day in the private sector, certainly in 2008. Such trims result in strong organizations, ones that hew tight to incentives.

Suppose the Fed closes the comfy campus in Dallas the next time the economy is throttled by tight money. Suppose the webs of Dallas Fed relationships torn asunder, the Thursday BBQs a memory, the sculptures auctioned off, no more nine weeks off a year and quickly vesting pensions.

Instead, padlocked Fed Dallas gates and former mid-management Fed staffers selling their suddenly unaffordable homes.

Now what say you, President Fisher?

Conclusion

I will confess ambivalent feelings about the Dallas Fed. President Fisher is offering the middle-class of Dallas some of the last good jobs in America, with the kind of pay, benefits and job security that generally disappeared from the private sector a generation ago.

In fact, if President Fisher would just offer me a job, I will move to Dallas and limn anti-inflation polemics for the rest of my career. A nod from Fisher, and my bags and me are headed to nearest Greyhound bus station, and we are Dallas-bound.

Go Cowboys! How about those Mavs? The Rangers! See you in the gym. Gotta work off that cheesecake from the café.

 

Editor’s Note: Information in this post garnered from Glassdoor.com and The Federal Reserve Board’s Annual Report to Congress, 2014. The press spokesman for the Dallas Fed, a James Hoard, declined to respond.

4 thoughts on “Comfy Town USA: Richard Fisher’s Dallas Fed

  1. All of that for showing up at the office 3 days per week (most likely to include Thursdays) with the one caveat that one expresses not an individual POV, especially if contrary to the “culture”. Such an establishment could never exist with any longevity in the private sector, and amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power and the public. If nothing else says the Federal Reserve system needs reform, this certainly screams it from the rooftops.

  2. Public choice theory says you have to pay public servants lavishly to stop them being “captured” by those whom they regulate or do business with. Seems to work with the Fed in Dallas, more’s the pity.

    Great detective work!

  3. Thanks all for your comments. There is the serious issue that the Fed is a bubble-world, divorced from the real economy.

    As I often ask, “If the FOMC was composed of economists taken from the real estate industry, what would be monetary policy?”

    Becky–For nine weeks off a year, and a greg gym and cafe, maybe I would live in Dallas. Imagine 4 weeks a year on the beaches in Rio! And five more weeks after that elsewhere!

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