Ben Bernanke: Hero or Villain?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke arrives to testify before the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 4, 2011. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/Getty)

Roger Lowenstein, financial journalist and author of The End of Wall Street, talks about his cover story for The Atlantic about public perception of Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke.


Roger Lowenstein

Comments [24]

Karen Karp from New York City

I would just like to make a comment on the unfortunate imagery used (I'm sure harmlessly) on this broadcast: that of Ben Bernakie describing how he saved the economy and if it weren't for him, "we'd all be selling apples on the street."

The implication here is that selling apples is an inferior occupation, an unfortunate position in society.

I would like to point out generally that many a successful American can trace his or her roots to the humble profession of street vending. This is one of the most recognized forms of American entrepreneurship, long providing an entry strategy into our culture and society.

Currently, and since 2008, the NYC Green Cart initiative, a private/public partnership between the NYC Department of Health and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, has, through its primary objective of increasing access to healthy food for low income New Yorkers, established 500 new small businesses, nearly 800 jobs in NYC.

How's them apples?

Mar. 25 2012 11:16 PM

"why do people hate bernanke, the man who saved the economy?"

Answered your own question, i voted "hope and change" I was trying to vote out this economy and replace it with a better one.

Mar. 23 2012 08:53 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

@MartinC -

Yes...I was responding to your post. Frankly, I don't mind your gadfly posts...You have your point of view and are entitled to it. More frequently than not your posts are clearly tongue-in-cheek bomb throwing. You display nowhere near the self-delusion of 'listener'...He is fervently detached.
Have a good weekend.

Mar. 23 2012 05:29 PM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

As Travis Bickle famously said, "you talkin' to ME?"
Am I "you guys"?

LOL, if so, then I am tickled to know that I annoy you so much.
Yes, Pangloss, there are fiscal conservatives.
I'll try to keep it coming...just for you.

Mar. 23 2012 12:04 PM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes NJ

Compare him to his predecessor, from my book, Ornamentally Incorrect

Irrational Exuberance
Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, believed that markets would regulate themselves and acted accordingly. He championed deregulation of banks. We all know how that worked out.
He was grilled by Henry Waxman, chair-man of the Congressional Committee for Oversight and Government Reform, in October, 2008 and admitted that he had been wrong in this view. “I found a flaw in the model that I perceived as the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.” Translation: Those Wall Street moochers didn’t behave like they were supposed to.
Ask a cop how people do regulating themselves. Duh!

Mar. 23 2012 11:44 AM

Greenspan was not a free-market purist and neither is Bernanke. Greenspan started the current mess of moral hazard by bailing out Long Term Capital Management in the 1990s. They only support the free market when their cronies are getting rich. But when things go wrong, they stick it to the little people.

Mar. 23 2012 11:43 AM
Rich from Madison, NJ

Whatever his faults, and strengths (yes, he has both) I think the larger reason so many people don't like him is that he has a perception problem. For starters, he just isn't interesting or exciting on his own, but he followed a Fed Pres. who was basically looked at like Yoda...the wise old man spouting confusionist vagueness. But it's almost like he knew he wasn't as interesting as Greenspan and wanted to be. And while it may truly be his idea and desire for openness, it felt like he took that approach simply to be different from Alan Greenspan and leave his mark/legacy.

Mar. 23 2012 11:42 AM
Robert from NYC

If he's so wonderful and intelligent and knows his economics and finance and whatever then why doesn't he come up with some better economic system instead of going back to the way we were. Memories of a time that screwed us all, clear and bright depressing memories, of the way we were...! Get Barbra to sing it.

Mar. 23 2012 11:39 AM
The Truth from Becky


Mar. 23 2012 11:39 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Everybody hates him because he is doing the "right" thing, not the "polically expedient" thing, for either side of the aisle.

Mar. 23 2012 11:38 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

@MC -

Opposed to Alan 'irrational exuberance' Greenspan, Bernanke is a breath of needed reality.

1) The Greenspan Commission DOUBLED FICA withholding that the GOP is now trying to steal.

2) Greenspan - his predecessor, Volcker, and Reagan decoupled the so-called wage price spiral. The result is a permanent mild inflation without any correpsonding growth in wages. The result of that is if you work for wages you have been slowly going broke over the past 2 decades.

3) Mr. G's 'regulations are inefficient and therefore bad' philosophy allowed our dumb as sticks President to gut the honest jobs of SEC chairman and FDIC head. This let guys like Phil Gramm of Texas open the 'Steal it now, boys, before it's all gone!" spigot on full.

All the cons and neo-cons express such respect for 'free markets' but I have never seen one embrace the bouts of deflation that MUST be a part of a truly free economy. Without, deflation it's just cementing in the current distributions. And we see where that has gotten us.

Sheesh! How I distrust and detest, you guys!

Mar. 23 2012 11:38 AM
jen l from manhattan

Also, I think people feel burnt by Alan Greenspan. Everyone idolized him and it turns out he was wrong. So I think it has made Bernanke's job harder.

Mar. 23 2012 11:37 AM
David from West Hempstead

I think he's been thoroughly competent, and I'm happy to have him there even if I don't agree with some of what he's done. "The twist," for example, doesn't seem like best way to respond to a lack of aggregate demand.

More broadly, I'd say that many of the people who've formed opinions on monetary policy have done so with an inadequate level of sophistication, and I don't think we should care what most people think of him.

Mar. 23 2012 11:37 AM

Even if you want to live in denial regarding inflation and the destruction of saver's assets... what about MORAL HAZARD?

The system is corrupt and the Federal Reserve is a key tool of that corruption. Ben is just a pawn -- it is not about him.

Mar. 23 2012 11:37 AM
Phil from Yonkers

he's the antihero. does what needs to be done while getting the brunt of dislike from everyone.

Mar. 23 2012 11:35 AM
John A.

I'm a little parental towards him. 'Don't be so nervous, child'. Even though I'm likely younger that he is. Way too much vocal stress.

Mar. 23 2012 11:33 AM
Robert from NYC

Baloney, Ben Bernanke saved the economy as it's been prior to the 2008 Depression (they might have fooled YOU into thinking it is just a recession but not me!) and nothing has changed but, in fact, much is even worse than before and I'm not about to go into that list here. Ben Bernanke is loved by the old regime but not by the rest of us. Whoever had/made lots of money before, still have lots of money. The rest of us don't and many of us have less. Baloney!!!

Mar. 23 2012 11:33 AM
Non-hater from CT

May I be excluded from the hate-crowd. I like Ben Bernanke. All those who, with hind-sight and without responsibility, have bad things to say about him did not have to make the decisions he made, and made well.

In any case, if you disagree with him, why are you a hater rather than a disagreer?

Mar. 23 2012 11:31 AM

"Why does everybody hate him?" is not a "thesis." It is a question.

Mar. 23 2012 11:31 AM

To say that he saved the economy is ridiculous. As long as everyone believes that the Federal Reserve can perpetually compensate for lack of sound economic policies, we will have crisis after crisis after crisis.

Mar. 23 2012 11:30 AM
henry from nj

Bernanke’s policy of holding down interest rates to basement levels has benefited some but hurt those retirees already hit by the crash of 2008. Banks awash in cheap money hardly compensate small savers, who lose again as an old established source of income disappears. This drastic change in their economic situation is never acknowledged by those who now set their sights on the remaining middle class supports of Social Security and Medicare.

We are so good in remaking history. It is as if we can start afresh whenever and however we want, history be damned.

Mar. 23 2012 11:28 AM
jen l from manhattan

I watched Bernanke's press conference in January and I remember breathing a sigh of relief and thinking "finally, a grown up." But I think he's too geeky to have mass appeal. My favorite geek phrase he used at the conference was when he described unemployement as loss of "labor force attachment."

Mar. 23 2012 11:06 AM
clive betters

is this a real question ?

Mar. 23 2012 10:51 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Great article. Ben Bernanke’s unique quality is that he can sound like anything you want him to be. He is very smart and he knows how to read an audience.
Doesn’t anyone remember the “previous” Ben Bernanke?
My wife and I hosted an appearance for him at a small gathering of conservatives in NYC before he was Fed Chairman. Bush was president, Republicans ruled Congress, the housing and financial markets were surging ... and Bernanke was talking in those days like Friedrich Hayek on steroids. His current relegation to interminable perdition from all sides is really just who he is...Chairman Chameleon.

Mar. 23 2012 09:02 AM

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