Saturday, November 28, 2009
Credibility deficit could doom Bernanke renomination
It might be funny, if the economic crisis wasn't so painful to so many, to hear U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke complain about efforts in Congress to overhaul the government's financial regulatory system. Bernanke was sharply critical of a Senate proposal to transfer much of the Fed's authority to regulate banks to a new consumer protection agency, according to the New York Times. Bernanke wrote an opinion column on the Washington Post Web site warning Congress and taxpayers unhappy about the nearly trillion-dollar bailout of the financial sector to leave the Federal Reserve system alone. "Now more than ever, America needs a strong, nonpolitical and independent central bank with the tools to promote financial stability and to help steer our economy to recovery without inflation," Bernanke wrote. But Bernanke, appointed by former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2006 and nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to a new 14-year term beginning next year, has a lot of explaining to do. Particularly, he needs to explain why the Federal Reserve and executive branch regulators were seemingly asleep at the controls when the financial system tanked. It was fairly obvious even to lay people that the overheated housing market, where financial institutions were allowed to make thousands of bad home loans and then sell those bad loans to other institutions as securities to back even more bad loans, was headed for a crash. So, why didn't regulators -- and Bernanke, the lead expert -- stop such practices before it was too late?