US Fed chair predicts recession in call with fake 'Zelensky'
US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell predicted a recession and acknowledged the central bank’s role in creating it in a candid conversation with celebrated Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus, whom he believed to be Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. The tricksters – whose real names are Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov – shared several clips from their January chat with Powell on Thursday.
“A recession is almost as likely as very slow growth” in 2023, Powell predicted, acknowledging, “I think that’s partly because of us having raised rates quite a bit, but this is what it takes to get inflation down.”
“What we need is a period of slower growth so that the economy can cool off, so the labor market can cool off, so that wages can cool off. That’s how inflation comes down,” the central banker continued. “It can be painful, but we don't know of any painless way for inflation to come down.”
Powell revealed that two more rate hikes were already baked into the market, and that even more could follow, even while admitting the Fed had raised its rates “historically sharply last year to get to the place where we are now.”
Amid last year’s punishing rate hikes, however, Powell had seemed unconcerned with skeptics’ recession predictions, insisting the markets were “well-positioned to withstand tighter monetary policy.”
Aside from inflation, the main issues imperiling the US economy were the conflict in Ukraine, instability in China, and the debt ceiling, Powell told the pranksters.
He repeatedly apologized to the fake Zelensky for being unable to do more to support the Ukrainian war effort, explaining that he had “limited ways” to shift economic policy in Kiev’s favor and that this was the Treasury’s job.
As faux-Zelensky wrapped up the call with a request for a printing press, Powell joked that the Fed had one (but kept it in the basement) and the pair shared a chuckle over the possibility of building a Federal Reserve bank in Kiev.
A Fed spokesperson reassured the public that “no sensitive or confidential information was discussed” with the hoaxers. “The matter has been referred to appropriate law enforcement, and out of respect for their efforts, we won’t be commenting further,” they told Axios, without elaborating on what law the fake Zelensky – or the real Powell – were supposed to have broken.
Vovan and Lexus have pranked dozens of Western politicians and celebrities in recent years, impersonating a broad range of public figures from Russian President Vladimir Putin to environmental activist Greta Thunberg.