Whatever one’s opinion about Ben Bernanke and his actions as Federal Reserve Chairman, one thing’s for certain: He hasn’t been afraid to act.
During his time as head of the central bank, the Fed has reduced interest rates nearly to zero and pumped more than $1 trillion into the financial system.
Recently, while speaking before the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said that “As serious as the effects of the crisis have been … the outcome could have been markedly worse without the strong actions.”
Like so much of history, I don’t know that it’s possible to come to a definitive truth about his actions in the immediate wake of the crisis, although many will try. I suppose only time and hindsight will tell for sure. Rest assured that the interim will be filled with plenty of opinion and conjecture.
As he makes his case for a second term, he is sure to continue to be raked over the coals by both parties. Already, despite defending his actions, he has admitting that lapses by the bank helped contribute to the financial crisis.
For example, he recently conceded that the central bank had been “slow” in protecting Americans from high-risk mortgages and said that the Fed should have made sure banks held more capital. Both Bernanke and the Fed itself will continue to hear criticism from lawmakers, but as of now, there seems to be enough support to win approval for a second term. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
In the meantime, if nothing else, Bernanke’s continuing saga is sure to help make your worst day at the office seem like a breeze. After all, it’s not everyone who can say that he had to deal with the worst economic environment since the Great Depression and then face a room full of angry lawmakers.