DALLAS (Reuters) - Federal deficits are complicating efforts by the Federal Reserve to help the economy, but using the central bank as a printing press to solve the problem "is not an option," a top Fed official said on Friday.
"Our nation has a crying need for public leadership to correct what's wrong in the economy," Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council. Monetary policy, he said, "cannot do it alone," but "must be complemented by responsible fiscal policy."
Fisher, whose rotation as a voting member of the Fed's policy setting panel ends this month, often uses public speeches to bring attention to the need for the nation's lawmakers to deal with U.S. debt and budget challenges.
An inflation hawk, Fisher said just the perception the Fed is pursuing a cheap money strategy will hurt long-term U.S. growth prospects by raising the specter of uncontrolled inflation.
The Fed has kept short-term interest rates near zero for nearly three years and tripled the size of its balance sheet from pre-crisis norms to help stimulate a slow recovery.
In August, the Fed said it expected to hold the federal funds rate at ultra-low levels at least until mid-2013.
Fisher said the unfunded liabilities from the federal Social Security and Medicare programs are in the tens of trillions of dollars.
"Doing deficit math is a sobering if not depressing exercise," Fisher said.
(Reporting by Ann Saphir; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)