Ben Bernanke is on yet another self-serving mission to save his job. Please consider The right reform for the Fed an op-ed by Ben Bernanke in the Washington Post.
Here is Bernanke’s entire article (in italics) with my comments interspersed in plain type. Most of my comments are made straight to Ben Bernanke, but they apply in general to all central bankers.
Bernanke: For many Americans, the financial crisis, and the recession it spawned, have been devastating — jobs, homes, savings lost. Understandably, many people are calling for change.
Mish: Ben, the reason people are calling for a change is that you and the Fed wrecked the economy. You did not see a housing bubble, nor did you foresee a recession. I would also like to point out your selective memory loss about your role in bailouts. To refresh your memory, please refer to Bernanke Suffers From Selective Memory Loss; Paulson Calls Bank of America “Turd in the Punchbowl” for details.
Bernanke: Yet change needs to be about creating a system that works better, not just differently. As a nation, our challenge is to design a system of financial oversight that will embody the lessons of the past two years and provide a robust framework for preventing future crises and the economic damage they cause.
Mish: No Ben, we need a system that works differently. You have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you and the Fed are incompetent and cannot be trusted.
Ben here is a compilation of your own statements made from 2005-2007 proving you have no idea what you are talking about.
Bernanke: These matters are complex, and Congress is still in the midst of considering how best to reform financial regulation. I am concerned, however, that a number of the legislative proposals being circulated would significantly reduce the capacity of the Federal Reserve to perform its core functions.
Mish: Hello Ben, exactly what is that core function? Is it a dual mandate of price stability and full employment by any chance? Pray tell exactly how badly did you blow that? Did you succeed at either? Is it mission impossible in the first place?
Bernanke: Notably, some leading proposals in the Senate would strip the Fed of all its bank regulatory powers. And a House committee recently voted to repeal a 1978 provision that was intended to protect monetary policy from short-term political influence. These measures are very much out of step with the global consensus on the appropriate role of central banks, and they would seriously impair the prospects for economic and financial stability in the United States.
Mish: What Global consensus? Other Central bankers? What about the consensus of those who saw this coming? Pray tell why should anyone listen to those who were wrong every step of the way?
John Hussman has the right idea in Bernanke Sees A Recovery – How Would He Know? “We continue to expect a fresh acceleration of credit losses as we enter 2010. It would be best if we faced these challenges with more thoughtful leadership.”
Bernanke: The Fed played a major part in arresting the crisis, and we should be seeking to preserve, not degrade, the institution’s ability to foster financial stability and to promote economic recovery without inflation.
Mish: Ben, you sound like an arsonist taking credit for helping put out a fire, before the fire is even out, after you lit the match and tossed on the gas in the first place. For all the problems you have caused, don’t you at least have the decency to show a little humility?
Bernanke: The proposed measures are at least in part the product of public anger over the financial crisis and the government’s response, particularly the rescues of some individual financial firms. The government’s actions to avoid financial collapse last fall — as distasteful and unfair as some undoubtedly were — were unfortunately necessary to prevent a global economic catastrophe that could have rivaled the Great Depression in length and severity, with profound consequences for our economy and society. (I know something about this, having spent my career prior to public service studying these issues.) My colleagues at the Federal Reserve and I were determined not to allow that to happen.
Mish: Ben, that is your self-serving assertion that you saved the world. Care to debate the subject?
All the Austrian economists would disagree.
Many others disagree as well. Please see Hussman Accuses the Fed and Treasury of “Unconstitutional Abuse of Power” for one such example.
Bernanke: Moreover, looking to the future, we strongly support measures — including the development of a special bankruptcy regime for financial firms whose disorderly failure would threaten the integrity of the financial system — to ensure that ad hoc interventions of the type we were forced to use last fall never happen again.
Mish: Ben, it takes a lot of gall to say that while you are doing nothing to dismantle too big to fail enterprises such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Citigroup, etc. Moreover, given that you could not see the housing bubble come or the internet bubble coming, and given that you still believe that bubbles are best dealt with after they blow up, your words are meaningless.
Bernanke: The Federal Reserve, like other regulators around the world, did not do all that it could have to constrain excessive risk-taking in the financial sector in the period leading up to the crisis. We have extensively reviewed our performance and moved aggressively to fix the problems.
Mish: Ben you acted the way all regulators act: Doing nothing while Rome burns, then attempting to prevent Rome from burning after it has already burnt to the ground.
Ben, in case you did not notice, the market already shut down subprime mortgages, pay option ARMS, HELOCs, and excessive credit card debt. Your feeble cries are too little, too late. At best your efforts would prevent the last problem, but not the next one. The market has already prevented the last problem privately, even as Fannie and Freddie are once again taking on excessive risk as government entities.
The first thing any regulator in his right mind would do would be to shut down Fannie and Freddie, yet you and the Fed feed the beast, bloating your balance sheet with garbage in the process.
Bernanke: Working with other agencies, we have toughened our rules and oversight. We will be requiring banks to hold more capital and liquidity and to structure compensation packages in ways that limit excessive risk-taking. We are taking more explicit account of risks to the financial system as a whole.
Mish: Ben, wake me up when you decide to eliminate Fractional Reserve Lending because until you do, you can never eliminate the problem.
Bernanke: We are also supplementing bank examination staffs with teams of economists, financial market specialists and other experts. This combination of expertise, a unique strength of the Fed, helped bring credibility and clarity to the “stress tests” of the banking system conducted in the spring. These tests were led by the Fed and marked a turning point in public confidence in the banking system. There is a strong case for a continued role for the Federal Reserve in bank supervision. Because of our role in making monetary policy, the Fed brings unparalleled economic and financial expertise to its oversight of banks, as demonstrated by the success of the stress tests.
Mish: Stress tests?! You are actually bragging about stress tests?! Those stress tests that predicted a worst case scenario of unemployment of 9.8% in 2010 when I called for that in August of 2009?! How many times have you had to revise your stress test estimates? 3 times and counting by any chance?
Bernanke: This expertise is essential for supervising highly complex financial firms and for analyzing the interactions among key firms and markets. Our supervision is also informed by the grass-roots perspective derived from the Fed’s unique regional structure and our experience in supervising community banks.
Mish: Your expertise is needed to supervise community banks?! Oh really? Let’s consult the latest FDIC Quarterly Banking.
“The number of insured institutions on the FDIC’s ‘Problem List’ rose from 416 to 552 during the quarter, and total assets of “problem” institutions increased from $299.8 billion to $345.9 billion. Both the number and assets of ‘problem’ institutions are now at the highest level since the end of 1993.”
Pray tell how bad would that have been if you were not an expert in such matters?
Bernanke: At the same time, our ability to make effective monetary policy and to promote financial stability depends vitally on the information, expertise and authorities we gain as bank supervisors, as demonstrated in episodes such as the 1987 stock market crash and the financial disruptions of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as by the crisis of the past two years.
Mish: Ben, did it ever occur to you that your handling of this crash is a repeat of the Fed’s mishandling of the 2001 recession?
I guess not, but it is. The Greenspan Fed, of which you were a part, blew an enormous housing/credit bubble to bail out banks from stupid loans made to dotcom companies and Latin America.
You are back at it once again, only bigger.
Your policy is and always has been to blow repetitive bubbles of increasing amplitude, each bigger than the last, hoping to bail out the system. You have learned nothing from 2001, from, Japan, or from the Great Depression.
You are a complete disgrace in your inability to learn anything from history, and unfortunately the US is held hostage to your foolish policies.
Bernanke: Of course, the ultimate goal of all our efforts is to restore and sustain economic prosperity. To support economic growth, the Fed has cut interest rates aggressively and provided further stimulus through lending and asset-purchase programs.
Mish: Cutting interest rates aggressively helped create the housing bubble, something Bernanke still has not figured out.
Bernanke: Our ability to take such actions without engendering sharp increases in inflation depends heavily on our credibility and independence from short-term political pressures. Many studies have shown that countries whose central banks make monetary policy independently of such political influence have better economic performance, including lower inflation and interest rates.
Mish: Ben, you are at your most disingenuous self when you harp about inflation. The ONLY source of inflation is the Fed and fractional reserve lending. To eliminate inflation, all that is required is to get rid of both. But you don’t want that do you?
No! You want a target of 2% inflation while ignoring asset bubbles because that is what the banks wants. You know and I know that inflation is a tax on the middle class for the direct benefit of the government and those with first access to money (banks and the already wealthy).
Ben, have you ever looked at a chart of two percent inflation over time? Here it is:
Inflation Targeting at 2% a Year
click on chart for sharper image.
Ben, Inflation targeting “works” until the ponzi scheme blows up when interest on the debt is no longer payable, the pool of greater fools runs out, attitudes towards debt and credit change, or some other stress such as global wage arbitrage and job losses interferes with the ability of consumers and businesses to take on more debt. In this case, all of the above happened.
Ben, you remain in Academic Wonderland with formulas that long ago stopped working.
Bernanke: Independent does not mean unaccountable. In its making of monetary policy, the Fed is highly transparent, providing detailed minutes of policy meetings and regular testimony before Congress, among other information. Our financial statements are public and audited by an outside accounting firm; we publish our balance sheet weekly; and we provide monthly reports with extensive information on all the temporary lending facilities developed during the crisis. Congress, through the Government Accountability Office, can and does audit all parts of our operations except for the monetary policy deliberations and actions covered by the 1978 exemption. The general repeal of that exemption would serve only to increase the perceived influence of Congress on monetary policy decisions, which would undermine the confidence the public and the markets have in the Fed to act in the long-term economic interest of the nation.
Mish: Ben, please stop lying through your teeth. If the Fed is as transparent as you say, you should not be fearing an audit. Furthermore, Ron Paul’s amendment specifically bars Congress from intervening in any aspect of monetary policy.
Your mission, is to make sure no one can ever hold you accountable for your illegal actions or to find out exactly what junk is on your balance sheet (and what it is really worth).
There is a difference between “independence” and “secrecy”. The Fed is not accountable to anyone right now and you know it.
Bernanke: We have come a long way in our battle against the financial and economic crisis, but there is a long way to go. Now more than ever, America needs a strong, nonpolitical and independent central bank with the tools to promote financial stability and to help steer our economy to recovery without inflation.
Mish: Indeed, we have come a long way thanks to Ron Paul’s Audit the Fed bill. There still is a long way to go. It is time to put in a plan to phase out fractional reserve lending and phase in a dollar backed by something rather than nothing before the Fed can do any more damage to the economy.
My Plea For Everyone
I ask everyone to read Murry N. Rothbard, The Case Against The Fed.
It is a short 151 pages, and easily understandable by all. Here is an online PDF of The Case Against The Fed and it is free courtesy of Mises.
The book covers many topics including Why Fractional Reserve Lending is Fraudulent, The Genesis of Money, The Optimum Quantity of Money, FDIC, and What Can be Done.
From the Introduction …
Money And Politics
By far the most secret and least accountable operation of the federal government is not, as one might expect, the CIA, DIA, or some other super-secret intelligence agency.
The CIA and other intelligence operations are under control of the Congress. They are accountable: a Congressional committee supervises these operations, controls their budgets, and is informed of their covert activities. It is true that the committee hearings and activities are closed to the public; but at least the people’s representatives in Congress insure some accountability for these secret agencies.
It is little known, however, that there is a federal agency that tops the others in secrecy by a country mile. The Federal Reserve System is accountable to no one; it has no budget; it is subject to no audit; and no Congressional committee knows of, or can truly supervise, its operations. The Federal Reserve, virtually in total control of the nation’s vital monetary system, is accountable to nobody—and this strange situation, if acknowledged at all, is invariably trumpeted as a virtue. …
Stop The Power Grab
It is imperative to stop the Fed’s power grab. The Fed bailed out banks and the bondholders of banks, illegally, at taxpayer expense. Moreover, the Fed would do it again in a flash. While the bondholders were made whole (the same applies to Fannie and Freddie), taxpayers are footing the bill.
Moreover the Fed has expanded its balance sheet by $trillions and no one really knows exactly what is in it, how much it is worth, or how much taxpayers might be on the hook for it.
While making claims of transparency, the Fed has fought to kill mark to market accounting at banks and the Fed certainly does not mark its own books to market. The whole thing is a huge shell game. The FDIC and the entire banking system is insolvent.
Bernanke’s self-serving mission is to make sure the Fed is not accountable for its actions and my uphill battle mission is to help move along Ron Paul’s bill so that Bernanke does not succeed.
Please contact your legislative representative once again, and let them know you want a complete accounting of the Fed, what is on the Fed’s balance sheet, and exactly what that garbage is worth, marked to market.
You can get Phone, Fax, and Email numbers from the Online Directory for the 111th Congress.
Please take this post and send it to anyone you think might read it.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock