A few weeks ago, mild-mannered Fed chairman and former econ professor Ben Bernanke confessed that "if there is a single episode in this entire eighteen months that has made me more angry," it is the government having to bail out AIG. The insurer, he said, "made huge numbers of irresponsible bets, took huge losses, [and] there was no regulatory oversight because there was a gap in the system."
And so today when, after Bernanke had already endured a long day of inscrutable questioning from members of the House Financial Services committee, Representative Donald Manzullo (Republican, Illinois) acted like it was his fault taxpayers have suffered losses on their portfolios so that AIG could be bailed out, Bernanke about lost it. "They are paying $40 billion so other people don't lose anything on their retirement plan," Manzullo accused. "That is what you are saying. That is what happened, isn't it?"
Bernanke said the aid to the insurer was provided to avoid a "catastrophic" collapse of the financial system that could have produced even higher losses on Americans' portfolios.
Give me a yes or no, please," Manzullo demanded. "Not one of you three can give me a yes on that answer or no?"
"It is a poorly posed question," Bernanke said.
"Well, then it is poorly written in your statements," Manzullo said.
Soon after, the question-and-answer session came to a close. Which is a good thing. Because if you had looked closely, you might have noticed that Bernanke's shoes and shirt had odd tears in them. As if he had tried to burst out of his clothes. Until next time.