Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will make his first visit to the 112th Congress on Friday for what has recently become a ritualistic beating in the guise of a hearing on monetary policy.
Aside from President Obama, no single federal official has been the recipient of more bipartisan slings and arrows than Ben Bernanke. The President, despite the historic shellacking his party received in the November mid-term elections, enjoyed a lame-duck session of Congress where he achieved many of his policy goals. A commensurate burst of pundit cuddling ensued, earning him the latest “Come-back Kid” moniker.
Howls of approbation are still ringing in the halls of Congress, among conservative economists, and even within the Fed boardroom itself regarding the Fed Chairman’s decision to renew quantitative easing (QE2).Further, some of the Chairman’s harshest critics will soon take leadership positions in Congress, giving them a perch to attack Fed policy, even if they fall short of actually altering Fed policy. So Bernanke would appear to be an unlikely nominee for the next Come-back Kid, but there’s a likely scenario that could earn him the award.
Most Americans and even many economic policy watchers have very few yardsticks to measure success. The numbers that matter most are (1) the green or red arrows at the bottom of the TV screen reporting on day’s stock market close; (2) the usual measurements of job creation – monthly job growth and the unemployment rate; and (3) inflation. Start talking about manufacturing capacity utilization, inventories, or the Fed’s balance sheet,, and eyes glaze over.