The growing anti-Wall Street protests in New York and across the country are an understandable reaction to persistently high unemployment, a top U.S. Federal Reserve official said on Thursday.
I am somewhat sympathetic - that will shock you, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told a group of business people in Fort Worth, Texas. We have too many people out of work. We have a very uneven distribution of income. We have too many people out of work for too long. We have a very frustrated people, and I can understand their frustration.
Protests have sprung up from Los Angeles to Boston, including New York's Wall Street in recent days, and have been marked by hundreds of arrests as demonstrators agitate against high unemployment, home foreclosures and the 2008 corporate bailouts.
At least 500 protesters gathered in Philadelphia on Thursday.
Fisher reiterated his view there is little the U.S. central bank can do to help, saying it is up to the politicians to pull the nation out of its budgetary sinkhole.
We can't do everything; we do not decide how much is taxed, how much is spent, how much is borrowed, he said.
Fisher is a vocal member of the minority who has argued against recent Fed moves aimed at boosting the economy, saying they are likely to be ineffective and could even harm growth.
He dissented in August when the Fed signaled it would keep interest rates low through mid-2013 and in September when it decided on a program to rebalance its portfolio in order to push down long-term rates.
His talk Thursday focused largely on the strength of the Texas economy, which has done better than much of the nation in terms of job growth and output since the Great Recession. He warned that Texas could fall behind, however, unless it fixes its poor educational system.
Asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement, Fisher said he understood the motivations behind it.
When times are tough, people that are getting the short end of the stick are going to be uncomfortable, and are going to express their opinion, he said. I think this is more of an expression of the discomfort of people who have been out of work, or don't have the prospect for work or have been out of work for too long and have diminished their prospects for further work, and it just underscores the need to pick up our economy and get it moving again.