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Friedman and the Child

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The Dark Bernanke has already been reconfirmed in his role as wealth-distributor-in-chief, so I guess this post is somewhat moot, but I really wanted to draw attention to this cheerleading article by Tom Friedman last week, wherein he vigorously – in fact, insultingly – agitates for Bernanke’s reconfirmation as Fed Chief.

The article is entitled, absurdly, “Adults Only, Please“, and I guess his premise is that only petulant, whining children could possibly oppose the bailout king. Mature, thoughtful adults apparently reward and worship abject failure.

He starts with a bizarre doctor analogy:

We’re like a patient that just got out of intensive care and is sitting up in bed for the first time when, suddenly, all the doctors and nurses at bedside start bickering. One of them throws a stethoscope across the room; someone else threatens to unplug all the monitors unless the hospital bills are paid by noon; and all the while the patient is thinking: “Are you people crazy? I am just starting to recover. Do you realize how easily I could relapse? Aren’t there any adults here?”

See? The economy is the patient, and the bickering doctors are all those feckless politicians. And..uh.. I guess the “adult” would be  Bernanke, as he says later in the article. But I think this analogy is missing something. It would be far more accurate if you had Bernanke there as a doctor, but willfully refusing to interpret your symptoms (hemorrhages, coughing up blood, etc.) as anything but signs of the utmost health.

Does anyone remember in 2005 when Bernanke declared “There is no housing bubble!“? Or what about in 2007 when he casually remarked that the “Subprime mess has been contained? Or in early 2008 when he said, “I don’t anticipate any serious problems… the danger seems to have waned…”? The stock market crashed three months after he said this. So which is it, Friedman? Is Bernanke a liar or an idiot? At any rate, if he were a real doctor, and the economy his patient, then we can be sure Mr. Bernanke would have been sued for gross negligence and malpractice.

As Friedman says:

And, finally, don’t forget both the Democratic and Republican senators who have decided to get a quick populist boost by turning one of the few adults we have left — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke — into a piñata. No, Mr. Bernanke is not blameless for the 2008 crisis. But since then he has helped steer the country back from the brink and kept us out of a depression. He absolutely deserves reappointment.

It’s so easy to slide over Bernanke’s role in all of this by casually remarking, “Well he’s not blameless, but…” This line of reasoning completely misses the point. As Fed Chief, it’s Bernake’s job to study data, identify perturbations, and warn against upcoming bubbles. What, was his head in the sand the entire time? He failed miserably in his primary role! It’s also his job to secure full employment, something which he certainly hasn’t done. 25% underemployment is not full employment, but considering that Bernanke apparently lives in some kind of Bizzaro-universe, I suppose he’s convinced himself it is.

As Dean Baker says, real adults hold each other accountable for miserable job performance. Children write one-sided op-eds bereft of research or perspective, clearly designed to promote a corporate-centric worldview. Remember, Goldman didn’t exactly object to Bernanke’s confirmation.

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Written by pavanvan

January 31, 2010 at 9:05 am

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