A bipartisan Bernanke lovefest
Back in August, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — a man who appeared to have a serious chance at becoming the next president — was saying his state would treat Ben Bernanke “pretty ugly” if he didn’t stop printing money. But Bernanke’s reception in front of the Senate Budget Committee was quite a bit, well, prettier. “I believe when history has been written, you will be a critical figure,” enthused Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). “Your role has been prominent in preventing the complete collapse of the financial system. For that I am grateful.” And Nelson wasn’t alone. The hearing quickly turned into a total Bernanke lovefest.
Republicans went out of their way to commend Bernanke and the Federal Reserve, even as they asked sharp questions about the central bank’s most fundamental decisions. “I want to compliment you on movements towards transparency,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told Bernanke. “You’re too important for people to think there’s some conspiratorial aspect of everything the Fed Reserve does. This comes up not often, but too often in my town meetings.”
Minutes later, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) chimed in: “I want to join my colleagues in commending you for the increased openness and transparency at the Fed.”
Even Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the highest-ranking Republican on the committee, had a few kind words for Bernanke’s leadership. “We all have different opinions, but I think you’re pretty close to what we need to be doing,” he told the Fed chair, even after exorciating him for misjudging the economy in the years before the financial collapse.
In other words, the Fed’s PR push seems to be working—at least for those enamored with the bank’s new transparency push. And they mean to keep it going. Bernanke said at the hearing that he is scheduled to give a series of public lectures about the Federal Reserve’s work at George Washington University—an unusual step for the traditionally reticent institution.
Update: The post has been expanded to better contextualize Sen. Jeff Sessions’ remarks.