white men with all the money

Ben Bernanke Dialoguing With the People Through Series of Rap Sessions

It’s weird that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was ever in the Bush administration. The former professor has always been lefty in spirit: He loves nature metaphors, blue sky ideas sessions, and is reportedly a big proponent of the repeat-and-rephrase method of communication (Such as: What I’m hearing is that you would rather acquire Merrill Lynch and stay in your position at Bank of America than make us have to fire you, am I right?). And so it makes sense that, as the Times points out today, he’s been “out there” more than any other Fed chairman in memory; penning op-eds, being interviewed by 60 Minutes and, last night, holding a Town Hall–style meeting hosted by Jim Leher, where he engaged with actual citizens about the Fed’s role in the bailout of the financial sector.

There, he had this heartwarming exchange:

David Houston, a third-generation local small-business owner, complained to Bernanke that when the U.S. government rescued those “too-big-to-fail companies” such as insurance giant American International Group, it was “hard to swallow” for small-business owners, who were also struggling to survive the recession.

Nothing made me more frustrated, angry than having to intervene, particularly in a couple of cases where taking wild bets had forced these companies close to bankruptcy,” Bernanke responded…”I had to hold my nose and stop those firms from failing. I am as disgusted about it as you are. I think it’s absolutely critical as we go forward that we put in a new system that will make sure that when a firm does not succeed in the marketplace, that it fails.”

The Times this morning likened this slew of public appearances to that of a candidate campaigning for office, and slyly noted the fact that Bernanke’s term is up in January. Economist Barry Ritholz was more blunt: “This is obviously part of his re-election campaign,” he said. But we think that’s kind of cynical — and anyway, citizens don’t get to pick the Fed chairman. Clearly, what Bernanke is trying to do is raise people’s consciousness. To humanize the Fed. To say, ‘Look, I may control all the money, but I’m not scary and evil. I’m just like you — a human, with feelings and emotions!’ The fact that that is an area in which Larry Summers cannot compete is, we’re sure, a total coincidence.

Forget Aloof, Bernanke Goes Barnstorming [NYT]
Earlier: Ben Bernanke Is Kind of a Hippie

Ben Bernanke Dialoguing With the People Through Series of Rap Sessions