Archive for December, 2009
Friday, December 18th, 2009
It is good news that the Senate Banking Committee yesterday approved Ben Bernanke’s nomination for a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. But it is disappointing that the 16 – 7 vote did not include a single Republican. For once, I am happy that Republicans are in the minority in the Senate, which will now require a full 60 votes to confirm Mr. Bernanke. Let’s hope there are at least a few Republican Senators who see the wisdom of keeping Mr. Bernanke.
It is disconcerting to observe how yesterday’s hero can morph into today’s villain. A year ago at this time, Ben Bernanke was truly engaged in saving the world from financial collapse. His comprehensive understanding of the financial markets and his knowledge of the causes and catastrophic decisions leading up to the Depression served the U.S. and the world well.
Because last year’s financial crisis did not culminate in a global financial catastrophe, (thank goodness) the world has forgotten how close we came to the brink of disaster. It is ironic that both Houses of Congress can find no cause to blame themselves for any of the events that led to the financial crisis and the ensuing recession. All they can do is heap blame on Wall Street and the Fed Chairman. Ironically the most outspoken critics of Wall Street and Mr. Bernanke, Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, were the most aggressive proponents of the Government policies that led directly to the crisis. It seems a bit like a case of “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Unlike Congress, Mr. Bernanke has admitted to errors. But to be fair, most of the issues that led to the crisis were in place well before he became chairman.
The Federal Reserve has a dual role. It is charged with safeguarding the purchasing power of the dollar, i.e. managing inflation, and promoting full employment. However, it cannot singlehandedly guarantee these two objectives. What the U. S. economy has needed throughout this financial crisis is liquidity and the Fed has and continues to provide that. Today deflation is a far greater risk than inflation. With the economy in a recession, the velocity of money had declined putting little upward pressure on prices. The time will come for rates to rise and money policy to tighten, but now is not the time when unemployment is high and asset prices are low.
If the Senate has the best interests of the U.S. at heart, it will vote to retain Mr. Bernanke for a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.