Follow us:

Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

July 28, 2009 at 10:00 AM

Ben and the Fed: The latest reality show

Top of the News: After the shy, Yoda-like, bubble-puffing Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke is quite a contrast. Looking for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman, Bernanke is stumping like a politician.

According to the New York Times, the chairman has embarked “on a publicity campaign with a message: the central bank is here to help, and it is not as mysterious or menacing as people might think.”

Menacing, hmmm. Other words and phrases come to mind: incompetent, bought and sold by Wall Street, asleep at the switch, enabler of the greatest bundle of swindles in history. Perhaps I’m being too harsh.

Bernanke’s Fed has arguably stopped the slide into a second great depression. It has limited tools to avoid a protracted period of economic stagnation, particularly on the employment front. On the other hand, it’s toolbelt does hold that dangerous bubble blower and inflation nail gun.

If the chairman is in the transparency department, I’ve already laid out 10 questions that need full disclosure to the American taxpayer. Yet another huge issue is the Fed’s role in letting AIG get away with its, er, questionable operations that merely presented a systemic risk to the financial system of this quadrant of the galaxy. All those billions of taxpayer dollars out the door and not one major criminal prosecution of a systemic risk player.

Then there’s the whole issue of bubbles. Although his lionized predecessor was to blame for these unsustainable disasters, what did Ben know and when did he know it? Does he believe the American economy has become so weak that bubbles — and their inevitable invitation to mass business criminality — are the only way to keep the engine running?

Maybe he does need to reassure us that the central bank isn’t a menace. This isn’t a “black helicopter” question.

The Back Story: Jeff Bezos and his shareholders probably don’t care, but the Kindle praise choir came to an abrupt end with Nicholson Baker of the New Yorker’s devastating, 6,000 word pummeling of the Kindle.

Is it really an improvement on that delivery system called the book? Baker’s verdict is no. It’s not even an improvement on the iPhone. “Amazon,” he writes, “with its listmania lists and its sometimes inspired recommendations and its innumerable fascinating reviews, is very good at selling things. It isn’t so good, to date anyway, at making things.”

Today’s Econ Haiku:

With the Dow rising

Why is confidence falling?

Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs

Comments | More in Amazon.com, Bailout

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►