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CNBC's Schacknow: Deconstructing Bernanke (and Subprime, Taxes, Housing...)

Grading The Questioners
I’ll be the first to admit that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s semi-annual testimony before Congress isn’t one of my favorite occasions. That’s because I sit glued to the TV, watching every moment of two days' worth of Congressional testimony -- about six hours in all -- just so I can provide you, the viewer, with onscreen “dekos” detailing the highlights of Bernanke’s testimony and the question-and-answer period.

But, having been given that responsibility, I’ve come to notice that “highlights” of the Q & A – which I define as interesting, non-repetitive answers that have the potential to be market moving – come most often when Mr. Bernanke gets an intelligent question.

Yes, I can hear you saying, “Well, duh!” But, as anyone who’s watched these sessions often knows, the “questions” are often speeches, and – dare I say it? – don’t always display a deep understanding of economic issues.

For that reason, I have to give props to the members of the Senate Banking Committee – who collectively generated some incremental and interesting information, even though Bernanke had already given his testimony twice and had answered several hours of questions from House members on Wednesday.

We got new information on the extent of the subprime problem (it could generate a total cost of up to $100 billion dollars), his opinion on regulating it (he prefers a state rather than federal approach), the private-equity tax issue (the term passive income isn’t well defined enough at the moment), and housing (falling home prices could eventually cut consumer spending by up to 9%).

So congrats to all 21 Senate Banking Committee members (I know this, because I had to write on-screen name dekos for them!) for a job well done.