FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Won’t Get Tarped Again!

The Senate’s decision on approving Ben Bernanke for a second term as chair of the Federal Reserve Board is coming down to the wire and the Wall Street crew is once again pulling out all the stops. To get the 60 votes they need for Senate approval they are reaching into the treasure chest of tall tales they used to push through the TARP. They are once again telling the American people that the world will end if we don’t do exactly what they want.

The main story they are pushing is that if Bernanke is not approved then the markets will panic and send the economy tumbling. Both parts of this story deserve some serious skepticism. First, there undoubtedly will be some uncertainty in the financial markets if Bernanke is not reappointed. Markets like continuity. A new Fed chair means a break in continuity. Therefore, we can expect to see some decline in the stock market, probably about the same as we get when there is a worse-than-expected jobs report.

However, focusing on day-to-day movements in the stock market is no way to make economic policy. For practical purposes, the daily movements in the market have no impact on the economy. Furthermore, there is no way to move the economy away from its current Wall Street bubble-driven growth path to one built on a productive economy without at least some temporary decline in stock prices.

Such a decline is inevitable if for no other reason than the fact that Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and the rest account for a substantial portion of thevalue of the stock market. If we can never do anything that even temporarily hurts stock prices then we can forget about ever reining in Wall Street.

Interestingly, the bond market, which is far more important for the economy than the stock market, has been rallying in recent days as Bernanke’s nomination faces increasing difficulty. Bernanke’s troubles may not be the case of this rally, but they have not prevented the 10-year Treasury rate from falling considerably.

It is also worth pointing out that one supposed source of bad news – a declining dollar – would actually benefit the economy. The country has a huge trade deficit because the dollar is over-valued. If the dollar were to decline as a result of Bernanke not being reappointed, it would give a boost to our exports and cause domestically manufactured products to displace imports.

Bernanke’s troubles don’t seem to be depressing the dollar at the moment, but if the Wall Street fear mongers and their allies push this line, we should realize that they are once again spouting nonsense. A lower-valued dollar is good news for the economy.

To briefly summarize the case against Bernanke, at the top of the list is the fact that his failures at the Fed (both as chairman since 2006 and as a governor since 2002) brought the economy to the brink of a second Great Depression (Bernanke’s assessment, not mine). Anyone else who had failed so completely at his or her job would be fired in a minute.

Only in Washington and on Wall Street could such a disastrous record be rewarded with another term in office.

Second, the focus of his bailout was to return Wall Street to health while leaving the rest of the country reeling. Bernanke rightly tapped the Fed’s virtually unlimited resources to keep the financial system from collapsing; however, he gave out money to the banks at below market interest rates with no strings whatsoever.

They were able to use this money to restore themselves to health, but were not required to do anything about compensation practices, risky trading or helping homeowners facing foreclosure. Nor were their shareholders and bondholders required to incur any losses. In effect, Bernanke gave a huge gift from the taxpayers to the Wall Street boys who were responsible for the crisis in the first place.

Finally, he misled Congress to help get the TARP passed back in October of 2008. He told Congress that the commercial paper was shutting down, which meant that even healthy companies would not be able to borrow the money needed to meet their payroll and to pay other bills. This would have quickly led to an economic collapse.

Bernanke did not tell Congress that he was planning to set up a special lending facility to directly buy commercial paper. He announced this facility the weekend after Congress approved TARP. It is not the Fed chairman’s job to deceive Congress. Nor is it his job to bail out Wall Street at the expense of the rest of the country. And, it is his job to prevent the growth of dangerous bubbles. That’s three really big strikes.

Bernanke should be sent out to enjoy his TIME “Person of the Year” status in retirement.

To get through this nonsense we just have the repeat the great mantra: It’s the economy stupid.

DEAN BAKER is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy.

This column was originally published by The Guardian.

 

More articles by:

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail