Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Leonhardt: Bernanke Should Discuss Fed Failures

by Bill McBride on 1/05/2010 09:39:00 PM

From David Leonhardt at the NY Times: If Fed Missed That Bubble, How Will It See a New One? (ht Ann)

So why did Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Bernanke get it wrong?

The answer seems to be more psychological than economic. They got trapped in an echo chamber of conventional wisdom. Real estate agents, home builders, Wall Street executives, many economists and millions of homeowners were all saying that home prices would not drop, and the typically sober-minded officials at the Fed persuaded themselves that it was true. “We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis,” Mr. Bernanke said on CNBC in 2005.

He and his colleagues fell victim to the same weakness that bedeviled the engineers of the Challenger space shuttle, the planners of the Vietnam and Iraq Wars, and the airline pilots who have made tragic cockpit errors. They didn’t adequately question their own assumptions. It’s an entirely human mistake.

Which is why it is likely to happen again.

What’s missing from the debate over financial re-regulation is a serious discussion of how to reduce the odds that the Fed — however much authority it has — will listen to the echo chamber when the next bubble comes along. A simple first step would be for Mr. Bernanke to discuss the Fed’s recent failures, in detail. If he doesn’t volunteer such an accounting, Congress could request one.
Bernanke continues to dodge the key questions: what went wrong with regulation, and how will the new regulatory structure catch a bubble the next time?

Suggesting “better and smarter" execution just doesn't cut it.