Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It's turning out to be an even more exciting week for Federal Reserve Chaiman Ben Bernanke than previously thought, Time Magazine crowning him "Person of the Year" today in a move that has spurred reminders of the magazine's "cover curse" and stands in stark contrast to the unexpected difficulty encountered during his Senate re-confirmation process where a vote is scheduled for tomorrow.
Oh yeah, in just two hours, the Federal Reserve policy making committee will provide an update on their various money-printing programs (more politely known as "quantitative easing") and a new poll shows that, by a margin of better than 2-to-1, Americans think the Fed chief works for Wall Street, not Main Street.
Aaron Swartz, co-founder of the company that conducted the poll, told the Huffington Post:
This poll proves that Americans simply don't trust Ben Bernanke. Any senator who votes to confirm Ben Bernanke will make a statement that they care more about Wall Street bankers than their constituents. If Bernanke was smart, he'd withdraw his name.Yikes!
Hopefully, Bernanke's staff has slipped him the Time Magazine story today instead of the one from HuffPost or any of these:
The Time Magazine story offers the following:
A bald man with a gray beard and tired eyes is sitting in his oversize Washington office, talking about the economy. He doesn't have a commanding presence. He isn't a mesmerizing speaker. He has none of the look-at-me swagger or listen-to-me charisma so common among men with oversize Washington offices. His arguments aren't partisan or ideological; they're methodical, grounded in data and the latest academic literature. When he doesn't know something, he doesn't bluster or bluff. He's professorial, which makes sense, because he spent most of his career as a professor.Remember that this honor goes to the "most important" person of the year, not the best, and that previous winners included Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler.
He is not, in other words, a typical Beltway power broker. He's shy. He doesn't do the D.C. dinner-party circuit; he prefers to eat at home with his wife, who still makes him do the dishes and take out the trash. Then they do crosswords or read. Because Ben Bernanke is a nerd.
He just happens to be the most powerful nerd on the planet.
Bernanke is the 56-year-old chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the U.S., the most important and least understood force shaping the American — and global — economy. Those green bills featuring dead Presidents are labeled "Federal Reserve Note" for a reason: the Fed controls the money supply. It is an independent government agency that conducts monetary policy, which means it sets short-term interest rates — which means it has immense influence over inflation, unemployment, the strength of the dollar and the strength of your wallet. And ever since global credit markets began imploding, its mild-mannered chairman has dramatically expanded those powers and reinvented the Fed.
While it's clearly not fair to compare Ben Bernanke's award this year with the past winners noted above, it's also becoming quite clear that people have heard about enough of one of the Fed chief's favorite arguments in defense of his recent actions, repeated in the Time story, that he "wishes Americans understood that he helped save the irresponsible giants of Wall Street only to protect ordinary folks on Main Street."