May 17, 2010

Is Ben Bernanke Having Fun Yet? By SEWELL CHAN Published: May 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — ktetaichinh @ 8:51 pm

That Mr. Bernanke was a Republican came as a surprise even to longtime colleagues like Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economist who had been the Fed’s vice chairman during the Clinton administration. Mr. Bernanke, who is soft-spoken, is socially liberal but fiscally conservative.

In a 2006 open letter, the Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw urged Mr. Bernanke to “accept a lower public profile than Greenspan” and “become as boring a public figure as possible.” The Fed’s job, he wrote, “is to create stability, not excitement.”

Ever the economic historian, Mr. Bernanke added, “Reflecting on the problems that were caused by the long transition between Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt during the Great Depression, I hoped to provide some policy continuity during the period of presidential transition.”

While Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Greenspan share certain views — that a global “savings glut” helped drive down long-term interest rates; that monetary policy is a poor tool for identifying, much less pricking, asset bubbles; and that the Fed’s interest-rate policies didn’t cause the crisis — the men differ in crucial ways.

While Mr. Greenspan tightly controlled Fed meetings, Mr. Bernanke is more collaborative. Unlike Mr. Greenspan, he avoids Washington’s cocktail circuit. Mr. Greenspan would weigh in regularly with policy recommendations; Mr. Bernanke warns that the United States is on a fiscally unsustainable path but hasn’t suggested specific tax increases or spending cuts
Mr. Bernanke reads avidly on his Kindle; Agatha Christie is a favorite. Recently, he read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot, about the donor of a cell line used in research; the novel “Push” by Sapphire; and “The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett, about maids in early-1960s Mississippi.


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