Posts Tagged ‘Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’

The Ben Bernanke Federal Reserve Semi-Annual Follies

July 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Twice yearly the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, must testify before Congress on monetary policy and the Fed’s economic outlook. Bernanke has achieved during his time as a principal policymaker on the U.S. economy an enviable reputation for poor forecasting and a unique ability to put a happy, optimistic face on the global economic crisis. However, is his most recent testimony before Congress, Bernanke gave hints that he is losing his laudable ability at spinning bad economic realities into “green shoots” of an imminent recovery.

Amid all the worthless Bernanke verbosity that the world has become accustomed to (e.g. “although fiscal policy and inventory restocking will likely be providing less impetus to the recovery than they have in recent quarters, rising demand from households and businesses should help sustain growth” ), there was a single sentence that betrays how even Bernanke is running scared that his policies of unprecedented public debt and quantitative easing are leading to disaster. The once pompously arrogant but now uncertain Fed chairman told Congress, “even as the Federal Reserve continues prudent planning for the ultimate withdrawal of monetary policy accommodation, we also recognize that the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.”

After adding trillions of dollars to the national debt, more than a trillion dollars in worthless assets to the Fed’s balance sheet and opening up its subsidized discount window to the likes of Goldman Sachs, the best Bernanke can mutter to the politicians in Washington is, “the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.”

If Bernanke is publicly admitting that the economic outlook for the United States is unusually uncertain, I think we can cross off his previous forecast about green shoots.

Ben Bernanke and the U.S. Budget Deficit: More Verbal Nonsense From the Federal Reserve

April 15th, 2010 Comments off

In his historic contribution to America’s fiscal imbalance, current Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has even surpassed the corrosive reputation of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan. It has been on Bernanke’s watch that the previous structural deficits of the U.S. federal government have been transformed into even more alarming structural mega-deficits. Bernanke knows that a fiscal firestorm is brewing. So how do you continue with policies that encourage annual deficits measured in trillions of dollars while looking responsible on the deficit issue? Why, just testify before Congress and speak eloquently of your serious concern about the deficit.

This is what the most powerful man in America, an individual who can make fiscal and monetary decisions that will bankrupt your children and grandchildren without interference from legislative or executive or judicial branches of government, had to say to the august members of Congress:

“Although sizable deficits are unavoidable in the near term, maintaining the confidence of the public and financial markets requires that policymakers move decisively to set the federal budget on a trajectory toward sustainable fiscal balance.”

Trajectory toward sustainable fiscal balance? The only clear trajectory I see is an irreversible rendezvous with national insolvency, sparking a catastrophic global economic depression.

Ben Bernanke Wins; America Loses

January 29th, 2010 Comments off

Despite all the rhetorical flourishes and grandstanding engaged in by that once august body, the U.S. Senate, when it came time for the rubber to meet the road, they voted overwhelmingly to reappoint Ben Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Let us be clear as to what those 70 senators voted for, in deciding to support President Obama’s preference that Bernanke remain at the helm of the Fed. Failure on a monumental scale has been conspicuously rewarded.

While Bernanke’s predecessor has been rightly condemned for his loose monetary polices and dogmatic conviction that unregulated market fundamentalism is always correct, the current Fed chairman has demonstrated continuity with those now discredited policies, along with a numbing myopia in failing to see a train wreck coming, despite ample warning.

In October 2005 Ben Bernanke appeared before Congress, only days before being nominated to succeed  Alan Greenspan.  Growing concern had already emerged regarding the unsustainability of what was obviously a massive housing asset bubble,  in large part facilitated by  the Fed’s easy monetary policies, fully supported by Bernanke. When questioned on the perception that the residential housing market was a growing danger to the nation’s economic health, the supposedly brilliant and perceptive Ben Bernanke stated that the escalation in U.S. housing  prices did not constitute an asset bubble, and was in fact based on sound economic fundamentals.

Sound economic fundamentals?

In an earlier post, I described Bernanke’s statement to Congress in 2005 as the worst economic prediction in recorded history. Yet this same flawed individual has now been  anointed by the U.S. Senate to have another go at deconstructing the U.S. economy.  A proven failure  now has another four years as head of the world’s most powerful central bank, with executive powers that in may respects exceed those of the president’s, with virtually no meaningful legislative oversight.

The justification for reappointing Ben Bernanke rests on a flimsy pretext. He supposedly saved the world from a global financial meltdown after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the fall of 2008. This ignores his conspicuous role as a principle architect of the global financial and economic crisis. In effect, he is glorified for indebting  generations of Americans yet unborn for covering the costs of his colossal errors in judgement. Furthermore, the Senate has failed to take cognizance that the very debt load they salute Bernanke for creating  as part of his “heroic” rescue mission has laid the seeds for a far more dangerous  phase of the global economic crisis. The risk of a paralyzing sovereign debt crisis is growing, raising the threat of national insolvency. The current fiscal crisis in Greece, and the economic purgatory being experienced by the people of Iceland, are clear warning signs on the economic horizon of what lies in wait for the American people. Maintaining Bernanke as Fed chairman magnifies the risk that a sovereign debt explosion will occur, creating a whole new level of economic devastation across the United States.

The lopsided vote by the U.S. Senate in favour of reappointing Ben Bernanke was  a clear triumph for the disaster-prone Ben Bernanke. As for the American people, this result is nothing less than a total, unmitigated defeat.

The Federal Reserve Suffers a Rare Defeat

August 25th, 2009 Comments off

Under the tutelage of Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve system has achieved the heights of power, while simultaneously the economy it  presides over has descended to the depths of  despair. This Zen paradox sums of the inexplicable success of Ben Bernanke. Having ignored or mistakenly assessed all the warning signs that the American housing bubble had burst and was set to take down the Wall Street investment banks, the panicky and massive policy measures undertaken by Bernanke in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers last year have made him the improbable hero of the global financial and economic crisis. With Bernanke set to be reappointed as Fed Chairman by President Barack Obama, it seems both he and the Federal Reserve have successfully consolidated their monetary and economic omnipotence.

Yet, some cracks in the foundations of the Fed’s  previously unassailable power have begun to emerge. Manhattan Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska has issued a ruling in the case of Bloomberg LP v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System that marks the first challenge to the virtual dictatorship on monetary policy that Bernanke has been able to impose on Congress and the media. The lawsuit had been filed by the Bloomberg news organization after the Federal Reserve refused to disclose the recipients of $2 trillion in emergency loans it provided to troubled banks. The rationalization used by the Federal Reserve for its refusal to follow the legal requirements of the Freedom of Information Act truly defines the meaning of arrogance. If the American taxpayers, who are ultimately on the line for the loans, were to know the identity of the banks receiving financial aid from the Federal Reserve, they would act irresponsibly and perpetuate a run on those very institutions, claim Bernanke‘s minions. In other words, Nixonian logic applied to the massive indebtedness of the American taxpayer, who is not entitled to know for whom the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve is being overloaded with toxic assets.

In its lawsuit, Bloomberg stated that disclosing the beneficiaries of the Federal Reserve‘s largesse is “central to understanding and assessing the government’s response to the most cataclysmic financial crisis in America since the Great Depression.”  However, Bernanke and company are not interested in illuminating the public in their understanding of the government’s role in the crisis, especially that of the Federal Reserve. Full disclosure might very well contradict the image being crafted by the Fed’s aggressive public relations program to portray Ben Bernanke as the saviour of the American economy and global financial system.

The Fed may still appeal Judge Preska’s ruling. However, if the ruling prevails and becomes precedent, it will mark a rare but important defeat for the Federal Reserve’s cone of silence and lack of transparency.


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Fed Chairman Bernanke to Congress: I Don’t Know To Whom We Gave Half a Trillion Dollars

July 24th, 2009 Comments off

Alan Grayson is a Democratic Congressman  representing Florida’s 8th congressional district. He was elected in 2008, having beaten the 4-term Republican incumbent. Despite his freshman status, Grayson is already developing a reputation as a fierce advocate for taxpayer interests in the wake of massive bailouts of the financial sector that have been orchestrated by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve. Serving on the Financial Services Committee and subcommittee that deals with capital markets, the congressman, having been a successful entrepreneur, clearly knows how to read a balance sheet and ask relevant questions. Thus, the stage was set when the Florida congressman had the opportunity to question Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke when the latter appeared before Congress to present an update on the economic crisis gripping America and much of the world.

Congressman  Grayson demanded details from Bernanke on a half trillion dollars in  liquidity swaps to foreign central banks undertaken by the Federal Reserve, apparently under the radar and in the dead of night. Demonstrating that he and his staff had done their fact-checking, Grayson noted that in 2007 these swaps with overseas central banks were a mere $24 billion, but had swelled to a staggering $553 billion in 2008 with the onset of the Global Economic Crisis.
The exchange between Grayson and Bernanke appears almost Kafkaesque in its reality-defying character, conveyed in the following, as a clearly uncomfortable Fed Chairman provides a tortured explanation regarding this half  trillion dollar transaction:

Bernanke: “Those are swaps that were done with foreign central banks…”
Grayson: “So who got the money?”
Bernanke: “Financial institutions in Europe and other countries…”
Grayson: “Which ones?”
Bernanke: “I don’t know.”
Grayson: “Half a trillion dollars and you don’t know who got the money?”
Bernanke: “Um, um, the loans go to the central banks and they then put them out to their institutions…”
Half a trillion dollars is a number so grandiose, it defies comprehension unless it is reduced to its ultimate simplicity. These credit swaps that exchanged American dollars for various foreign currencies were done without any consultation with elected officials, and amount to more than $1,800 for every man, woman and child residing in the United States. Under section 14 of the Federal Reserve Act, according to Chairman Bernanke, the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) can engage in swapping U.S. dollars with foreign central banks without any limitations, at any time, without any requirement for congressional scrutiny. In other words,  “Congressman Grayson, why are you wasting my valuable time with these irrelevant questions,” Bernanke seemed to be implying through his frosty demeanour. Never mind that the Federal Reserve Act was originally passed in 1913, nearly a century ago.

“Is it safe to say that nobody in 1913 contemplated that a small little group of people would decide to hand out half a trillion dollars to foreigners,” Grayson pointed out. He raised as an example New Zealand, which received $9 billion from the Federal Reserve, an amount equal to $3,000 for every one of that nation’s citizens.

The congressman from Florida’s 8th district is to be commended for his focussed inquiries directed at the Fed Chairman, and steadfastness in the face of Bernanke’s evasiveness. More importantly, Grayson raises anew serious questions regarding the unlimited power placed in the hands of the Federal Reserve. The defenders of the Fed’s current position of fiscal omnipotence maintain that its independence from political influence must be preserved. However, the historical record, especially in the last 20 years, clearly shows that the Federal Reserve is influenced politically, either through the executive branch and the power of the President to reappoint the Fed Chairman, or through the large financial institutions on Wall Street, which have a level of access to Fed decision-making not available to any other category of citizens. More importantly, since the onset of the current financial and economic crisis, the Federal Reserve and its chairman have proven to be highly fallible, having made many errors in judgment, not the least being their original overly-optimistic pronouncements when the first tremors from the subprime meltdown arose.

Congressman Grayson’s penetrating inquiry serves as a reminder that the ultimate systemic risk to America’s financial system and economic superstructure stems from allowing a small, fallible clique to make speedy decisions involving incalculable sums of public money without any consultation with or checks and balances from the nation’s elected representatives. This is not only fiscal tyranny by any other name; it is a recipe for unintended and disastrous consequences.


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