The Senate finance committee overwhelmingly voted to approveBen Bernanke for another four-year term as Federal Reserve board chairman. This is a remarkable event since it is hard to imagine how Bernanke could have performed any worse during his last four-year term. By Bernanke’s own assessment, his policies brought the US economy to the brink of another Great Depression. This sort of performance in any other job would get you fired in a second. But for the most important economic policymaker in the country it gets you high praise and another term.
There is no room for ambiguity in this story. Bernanke was at the Fed since the fall of 2002. (He had a brief stint in 2005 as chair of President Bush’s council of economic advisors.) At a point when at least some economists recognised the housing bubble and began to warn of the damage that would result from its collapse, Bernanke insisted that everything was fine and that nothing should be done to rein in the bubble.
This is worth repeating. If Bernanke knew what he was doing, he should have been able to see as early as 2002 that there was a housing bubble and that its collapse would throw the economy into a recession. It was also entirely predictable that the collapse could lead to a financial crisis of the type we saw, since housing was always a highly leveraged asset, even before the flood of subprime, Alt-A and other nonsense loans that propelled the bubble to ever greater heights. Of course as the bubble expanded, and the financial sector became ever more highly leveraged, the risks to the economy increased enormously.
How on earth can you do worse in your job as Fed chair than bring the economy to the brink of a total collapse? If this is success, what does failure look like?
Questions we won’t find answers for in this topsy turvy world led by liberals elected by the ignorant.