Bernanke to Santelli: Save the Neighborhood

Tuesday, 24 Feb 2009 | 1:10 PM ET

My colleague Rick Santelli's pointed comments last week about the fairness of the Obama administration plan to stem foreclosures bubbled up into into Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony before a Senate committee Tuesday.

You, of course, have seen Rick's video (it's gone Internet viral). It drew widespread attention and somewhat contentious comments from the White House last week. Rick, with some visible and audible support from surrounding traders, noted that paying the mortgage of someone who shouldn't have gotten the mortgage in the first place might be unfair to those who live within their means.

Bernanke To Santelli: Put Out Fire, Save the Neighborhood
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) asks Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke whether the government programs are, in the eyes of commentators like Rick Santelli, rewarding bad behavior. While Bernanke understands the sentiment, he says if your neighbor's house is on fire, it's probably a good idea to put it out, save him, and, in turn, save your house, too.

Without naming names, Sen. Evan Bayh queried the fed chairman about his views on the subject. Bernanke responded with the "your neighbor's house is burning but it's his fault" analogy. (Which The Heat brought up first).

"You could punish him by refusing to send the fire dept and then he would learn his lesson, but unfortunately in the process you'd have the entire neighborhood burning down," said Bernanke (you can see the whole exchange in the video).

Of course another colleague of mine, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, has a comeback for that.

We've received thousands of emails about Rick's comments. And they, as well as the commentary around them, are likely to keep prompting discussion. But as he himself points out it's more about ideas, not politics.