Ben Bernanke

Bernanke Does The Cfr

I just got back from a talk by Ben Bernanke at the Council on Foreign Relations. The Fed chair laid out a rather compelling vision for stabilizing the financial markets, including the obvious (but still refreshing to hear) principle that the more systemically important the institution, the greater the need for government oversight. This should go without saying, and yet clearly the last generation of public regulations have tilted in the opposite direction.


Debt Man Walking

For those Americans who are not daily readers of the Financial Times, the past few months have been a crash course in the abstract and obscure instruments and arrangements that have derailed the nation's economy. From mortgage-backed securities to credit default swaps, the financial health of the country has undergone a gory public dissection.


Obama’s Choice

The next Larry Summers ... or Larry Summers.


Visible Hands

When Hank Paulson, a successful investment banker turned Republican treasury secretary, caps his career by nationalizing two financial institutions so large that even Norman Thomas in his socialist heyday would have paused before taking them onto the government's balance sheet, and a conservative central banker agrees to bail out an insurance company to the tune of $85 billion, you know that a fundamental change is underway. The day when that engine of capitalism, the financial market, was allowed to operate more or less unimpeded by government has passed.


A Matter Of Trust

Clay Risen is managing editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and a contributing editor at World Trade. His first book, A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination will appear in January.   It's tempting to watch today's Senate Banking Committee hearings, with Democrats and Republicans alike tearing into Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and feel pangs of sorrow for the beleaguered duo.


Real heroes seldom look like their predecessors or textbook models. Ben Shalom Bernanke reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s Dormouse. Small, bald, pepper-and-salt bearded, his voice repressed toward monotone, this ex-student of the Talmud, son of a Dillon, SC pharmacist and a school teacher, taught himself calculus, got the highest SAT scores in his state, worked as a waiter to help put himself through his Harvard summa cum laude BA and, according to a friend of mine who knows him, endured and clearly overcame serious personal phobic crises.


Bank Shot

In the long narrative of central banking, there are few bursts of color. That’s why Federal Reserve Chairman William McChesney Martin’s journey to Lyndon Johnson’s ranch in 1965 leaps from the history books. Johnson extended an invite to Martin because he didn’t much like the tight monetary policy that the Fed had imposed—a war on inflation that placed severe constraints on Johnson’s wars (both on poverty and the Viet Cong). Down on the ranch, Martin received the full LBJ treatment.


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Last June, the Federal Reserve quietly released a discussion paper that garnered little attention in the mainstream press but created a minor stir on Wall Street and in the rarefied world of academic economics. The paper, titled “Preventing Deflation: Lessons from Japan’s Experience in the 1990s,” was nominally about exactly what its title suggested: how the persistent deflation and economic stagnation that has followed Japan’s late-’80s bubble could have been avoided.