Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is up for a reconfirmation vote in the Senate tomorrow. He will likely be confirmed, and that's good news.
A perceived surge in populism is roiling both the Democratic and Republican parties, and a strange combination of all the political tension somehow fell on Ben Bernanke. And it was bipartisan. Politicians got the message that voters were angry: angry at Wall Street, angry at Washington policies, angry at elites wherever they may be. So Ben Bernanke, the calm-voiced Princeton professor and author of macro textbooks, became the fall guy for all those who really contributed to the subprime mortgage-induced recession. There's been a drumbeat of attacks on his stewardship of the central bank. But a funny thing happened on the way to guillotine. A majority of Senators seem to have decided to reconfirm.
In our view, Chairman Bernanke has been creative when others were dogmatic. He was decisive when others were silent. For that reason alone he should be praised, as Time magazine has done, certainly not condemned.
Second, what too many fail to understand is that for millions of Americans the U.S. recession is not over. There is no certain destiny for a recovery, strong or weak, in the coming year. And the biggest danger remains the fragility of the global financial system. The Chairman has demonstrated that he understands that danger. We need him now as much as we needed him in September 2008 when things looked much darker.
The third value in reconfirming Bernanke has hardly been noticed, but here it is. In a city drowning in partisan rancor, the bipartisan victory of the chairman reconfirmation will emerge as an invaluable island of sanity, and perhaps point the way toward more bipartisan, constructive action ahead. Let’s hope.
Robert Litan and Tim Kane