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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fed Chairmen Never Learn

by Calculated Risk on 12/03/2009 04:55:00 PM

In his 2001 testimony, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan testified before the House Committee on the Budget, and while offering his usual cautions and caveats, Greenspan talked of surpluses for the foreseeable future.

Greenspan spoke of "an on-budget surplus of almost $500 billion ... in fiscal year 2010". The National Debt would soon be retired and the Boomer's retirements secure. Greenspan offered a projection of "an implicit on-budget surplus under baseline assumptions well past 2030 despite the budgetary pressures from the aging of the baby-boom generation, especially on the major health programs."

How did that work out?

The key point is that for the Fed to remain independent, the Fed Chairman - as a rule - should avoid all discussions of fiscal policy.

Now comes Fed Chairman Bernanke today on the deficit. From Ryan Grim at Huffington Post:

"Well, Senator, I was about to address entitlements," Bernanke replied [to Senator Bennett]. "I think you can't tackle the problem in the medium term without doing something about getting entitlements under control and reducing the costs, particularly of health care."

Bernanke reminded Congress that it has the power to repeal Social Security and Medicare.

"It's only mandatory until Congress says it's not mandatory. And we have no option but to address those costs at some point or else we will have an unsustainable situation," said Bernanke.
"Willie Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money is, as he put it," Bernanke said. "The money in this case is in entitlements."
No matter if people agree or disagree with Bernanke, to maintain independence the Fed Chairman should not be commenting on the deficit and entitlements.

And from Silla Brush at The Hill: Bernanke: 'Little bit early' to make case for second stimulus
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke ... Bernanke emphasized that the government has spent less than half of the money in the $787-billion package passed earlier this year and that analysts are still determining its impact.

"Only about 30 percent of the funds have been disbursed," Bernanke said. "It's a little bit early to make a strong judgment, a little bit early to decide whether or not to do additional fiscal actions."
Once again - it doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree with Bernanke - he should not be talking about these issues.

A very poor performance today from the Fed Chairman.