Mark Thoma: Libertarians and populists versus Bernanke

Edward Harrison here. Here is a video clip of mark Thoma talking about the Federal Reserve Chairman’s chances of re-appointment. He says time is not on Chairman Bernanke’s side. If you saw the Ron Paul video at Credit Writedowns yesterday, you could see what’s happening.

I don’t have a strong view, although I believe most of the other bloggers (including Yves?) are against. Reminder: This is what Mark wrote about the Chairman’s being re-appointed in June.

Bernanke, Summers, or Yellen? None of the Above?

I’d reappoint him. If forced to choose between Yellen and Summers, I’d choose Yellen.

Question: are these still the alternatives if Bernanke is not confirmed?

(video embedded above)

See also Bernanke’s nomination approved by Senate banking panel from the BBC

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Federal Reserve, Regulations and regulators on by .

About Edward Harrison

I am a banking and finance specialist at the economic consultancy Global Macro Advisors. Previously, I worked at Deutsche Bank, Bain, the Corporate Executive Board and Yahoo. I have a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University. As to ideology, I would call myself a libertarian realist - believer in the primacy of markets over a statist approach. However, I am no ideologue who believes that markets can solve all problems. Having lived in a lot of different places, I tend to take a global approach to economics and politics. I started my career as a diplomat in the foreign service and speak German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish and French as well as English and can read a number of other European languages. I enjoy a good debate on these issues and I hope you enjoy my blogs. Please do sign up for the Email and RSS feeds on my blog pages. Cheers. Edward


  1. sherparick

    It will be funny seeing Demint and Sanders joining together on a filibuster of Beranke. I don’t see Summers getting the appointment as he becomes more radioactive everyday (and everytime he opens his mouth). That leaves Janet Yellen if one brings in an insider. For an outsider, someone who acceptable to both Wall Street and the rest of us may be impossible to find.

    1. alex

      “For an outsider, someone who acceptable to both Wall Street and the rest of us may be impossible to find.”

      Here I thought the US government was supposed to represent the people, with no particular emphasis on the denizens of Wall St.

      Oops, sorry, I have crazy dreams sometimes. What I remember when I woke up was that Diora Baird couldn’t keep her hands off me, but the really implausible part was what I said above.

  2. Cullpepper

    What? What?

    You can only think of three people who could be chairman of the Fed?

    Given the performance of the past year(s) don’t we need a fresh approach to finding qualified people for these posts? How about with an exam? is the idea of a meritocracy too scary for the finance community?

  3. DownSouth

    We see the same sort of coalition–made up of those on the right and those on the left–coming together against the senate healthcare “reform” bill.

    Just imagine if both Bernanke and the healthcare “reform” bill bite the dust. That would pretty much be the death knell for the Obama presidency.

    Obama broke the cardinal rule of politics. As they say down in Texas: “Ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya to the dance.”

    To have had any hope of success, Obama would have had to of maintained his base and won over enough of the center to form a majority. Instead, he pandered to the far right, an exercise in futility as they weren’t going to support him even if he could walk on water, and with that same stroke turned his base against him.

    Obama needs a major course correction. But for whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to be up to the task.

  4. RSasher

    @Ed and Cullpepper: You are absolutely correct to question anything coming out of these elites mouths. They will always circulate another name in their own elitist circle if one fails. That way, they can always keep it in their hands.

    Here’s my take on the names being mentioned here:
    Yellen: This lady is a gigantic idiot. You may as well nominate Bernanke’s wife for Fed Chair as some Third World countries do for their politicians. Yellen is a total bought and paid for shill for Bernanke and Greenspan’s failed monetary experiments. If Yellen gets the nod, i’ll jump off this building…

    Summers: Totally arrogant empty suit. If he didn’t have the right last name, would he be where he is (look up his family history)? Unbelievable Chutzpah but total joker when it comes to having any idea of how the real economy works.

    Blinder, Plosser, Mishkin, whatever: Get me someone who is not from the same “our crowd”.

    Here’s my list:
    Raghuram Rajan: ex-IMF, called out Bernanke and Greenspan’s monetary experiments when they were happening not after. It takes guts to do that and he has plenty of it.

    Volcker: Needs no intro.

    Sheila Bair: Guts with some common sense.

    C’mon there are more names like this.

    1. alex

      Rajan sounds good. He not only had the wisdom and guts to present a 2005 paper criticizing finance practices (at Greenspan’s retirement no less!) but co-authored “Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists” (sounds like FDR or Keynes).

  5. craazyman

    Why is it that when I watch that dude talk I feel like I’m watching a brainwashed scientologist talk about L. Ron Hubbard and engrams?

    It’s like a cult thing, the way the head bounces back and forth on the neck and the mouth moves while a vacant programmed stare emanates from the eyes.

    This guy may be a good guy and I may be totally confused, but all this talk of all the ways the Fed worked hard to “get liquidity to the banks” and how much “knowledge” it has to put to work for future bank regulation seems to ignore nearly everything important about what caused the crisis and what millions of people are facing in its aftermath.

    Maybe I’m too sensitive or sentimental or my reactions are out of context — but it seems to me that these guys are all part of a cult and Bernanke is sort of a Maximum Leader.

    I know in my heart and soul there is a better way for everyone. I hope they find it, and it sure as hell doesn’t go through Larry Summers, who’d look like John Law if he had a shoulder length wig on his head.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      It is, “like a cult thing”, but on steroids. Its a womb to tomb instilled, easily co-opted and complexi-fied, highly addictive, voodoo science of head fucking deflection and deception. Those addicted really lap it up like a dog laps up dirty dog bowl water on a hot day.

      The hard thing about it is when you go through the Russian doll twelve step deprogramming (where the outside doll is Santa Clause) and you break the addiction, and see the cultiness of it all, you have no one left to play with. It gets pretty fucking lonely and sometimes you want to play the cult thing game again.

      In that spirit (and I hope I don’t get re-addicted to the cult here), I would like to pick a FED chairman. I would go outside the box on this one and get some fresh thinking and some one with Natzi 90 mm anti air craft gun experience. Someone that already knows how to shoot down scamericans. So for FED chairman I would nominate Pope Joe Ratzinger.

      For second choice I would dig up Saint Ayn Rand, have her spruced up by a taxidermist and animated with voice capability at Disney, and then have her say really brilliant evolutionary shit about usury.

      I feel a little better now that I’m in the game again … but …

      Deception is still the strongest political force on the planet.

  6. Jesse

    I would like to see Volcker have another appointment.

    I do not care for Yellen at all, and Summers is anathema.

    But really, what difference does it make who is the FED chairman? The Fed Chairman is only one person in a very large, bureaucratic organization.

    I am more interesting in reforming and downsizing the Fed back to its original intentions. And sending a strong message to the financiers, which is why giving Ben the boot matters.

    But if Bernanke goes and Summers comes in, that is much, much worse.

    It is not about personalities so much as it is taking the power away so it will not be abused no matter who is in the position.

  7. Kris

    Doesn’t the Chairman have to be selected from the Board of Governors? Are there any vacant seats, or soon-to-be vacant seats, that would allow for anyone outside of the existing board members to be appointed?

  8. Adam Hill

    I know he’s 82, but Volker gets my vote (if I could vote), I also like Bair and if it was an option William White assuming he’d accept (from Bank for International Settlements).

  9. RSasher

    @Jesse: You are running far ahead of reality man. Slow down…I would like to shut down the Fed as well but I know we can’t do it today. But what we can do, is to RAISE THE TEMPERATURE for everyone in the room when Bernanke’s vote comes up in the Senate. Guys like Bernanke who studied with the current set of elites have always been living in a bubble: they have been told how great and smart they are from the time they entered MIT or Harvard. So this guy is not likely to resign from a sense of shame or honor like you and me. He thinks the world owes it to him because wasn’t he always the BEST ONE in Economics? So our only weapon as proletariats is to raise hell until somebody gets a backbone and starts fighting him.

    At the moment, I am assuming we cannot shrink or shut down the Fed.

    But we can at least put honest, intelligent people in charge of the Fed so that when the time comes, we can shut it down or shrink it.

    One step at a time, my friends…

  10. RSasher

    Also one very important thing: we cannot allow someone from the current set of Groupthink economists to get hold of the Fed. We need to BREAK the control of these elitist basturds over our money supply and economy. To do that, we cannot settle for anything less than a complete outsider.

    remember, we need DIVERSITY (of people and opinions) at the Fed…Currently that is sorely lacking.

  11. tyaresun

    My nomination would be William White, the former chief economist at the Bank for International Settlements, has been something of a cult hero around here for a few years now and, yesterday in London, he apparently mixed it up a bit with former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

    According to this report at Bloomberg, it wasn’t much of a contest.

    A long-time critic of central bank policy during the Greenspan years, Mr. White wrote one of the most prophetic outlooks for the world economy and global financial system last July, laying the blame squarely on the Federal Reserve for the collapse that would occur just a few months later.

  12. Patrick

    The problem with Volcker is that he’s very unlikely to let inflation run the 4%-5% for 2 years to break the liquidity trap.

  13. Doc Holiday

    Volcker is a weak old man and unrepresentative of the future challenges that we will have with the post Obama era in which Sarah Palin will rule.

  14. Blurtman

    Bernanke gets what amounts to a very mild hand slap. To not confirm him sends the message that the PTB do not know what they are doing.

    The rats will keep pressing on the food bar, even if the pellets are not forthcoming, in hope that it does again.

  15. Leigh-Anne

    William White does sound interesting. However, he is Canadian. Is it likely that a non-American could get the nomination?

  16. jacob richter

    After watching the phantom filibuster menace used to strip healthcare reform of every check on industry predation, it would be sweet to see it actually go to work against the corrupt corporate-whore majority. When people demand a replacement nominee for Bernanke, just tell them fuck off. The GOP knows how to do it: disrupt, obstruct, disrupt. Keep the Fed, Treasury and the EOP on the back foot while BIS and other multilaterals get to work on real reform. For now, that’s the only way to stall the Dems’ planned corporate coup.

  17. Hugh

    If Bernanke’s nomination does come to a vote, he will be confirmed over some bipartisan opposition. The holds introduce an interesting twist. Will Reid honor them? Can Obama do a recess appointment?

    I agree with Jesse that we should bear in mind that the Fed needs fundamental reform and restructuring. I agree with Ed that Obama would likely nominate another Bernanke/Greenspan clone if he had too. Who knows he might go with Dudley at the New York Fed. He is a Goldman alum afterall and would continue the economic and political capture that marks this Administration.

    Almost anyone (economist or not, monetarist or not) who has been right about most of the economic events that have occurred and who opposed Bernanke would make an infinitely better Chairman than Bernanke.

  18. Anon

    Glenn Grennwald nails where this is coming from:

    “Whether you call it “a government takeover of the private sector” or a “private sector takeover of government,” it’s the same thing: a merger of government power and corporate interests which benefits both of the merged entities (the party in power and the corporations) at everyone else’s expense. Growing anger over that is rooted far more in an insider/outsider dichotomy over who controls Washington than it is in the standard conservative/liberal ideological splits from the 1990s.”

  19. Doug Terpstra

    Thoma hopes BB will be confirmed and have the Fed continue its stellar job of regulating its club member banks. Clearly they know exactly how to deal proactively with usury, predatory lending, hyper-leveraged bubbles, derivatives, and the purchase of toxic sewage. We wouldn’t want to rock such a seaworthy yacht would we? And we don’t need no steenking audits either.

  20. Adam Hill

    Volker may be old, but weak!?!?! Name me one former or current FED chairman who had/has the cajones to do what he did? People were screaming for his head and yet he held fast and broke the back of the 1970’s inflation.

    1. alex

      We’ve had only 2.5 Fed chairmen in the last 30 years: Volcker, Greenspan and Greenspan 2 (mumbles less). Surely there are other candidates.

  21. Jason C. Rines

    Thoma is and has consistently been a government ass kisser. He does this for this research grants at the university. To continue shilling for them is shameless, but what is a guy who looks like a Star Trek cast member supposed to do when the tap runs out?

    I agree with the posters that said other candidates Thoma did not mention would be better.

    Who wants the job of getting the final blame for America’s final crash? If I was Volcker at 82, I wouldn’t want the job. I would wager he would have done it if the Administration hadn’t sidelined him so much.

  22. The Rage

    Volcker is just not a weak old man, but a main reason why we are where we are today.

    The inability of people to see this or his policy blunders that led to today’s problems in the early 80’s is amazing.

    You people keep on thinking this is a financial problem, it isn’t. It is a structural problem that was caused by the lie of the ‘stagflation’ era. It is amazing how “government interference wasn’t decried then, but the government did interfer. The stagflation era was all about the Boomers. When they started to come into their prime spending years, businesses struggled to keep up supply and we had demand shocks from it. Even then, the economy operated fairly well if in rough seas. Nothing is ever perfect and America won’t always be in economic boom. Volcker didn’t need to do a damn thing except watch the banks and continue on policy as had been while business’s adjusted which they did by the early 80’s, REALLY ending the stagflation era. Instead we got unnecessary high rates, beginning of financialization and the complete takeover of the plutocracy. Totalitarianism of the merchant caste. The takeover of state functions by the merchant caste.

    It is amazing how Libertarians never whine when the FED has high rates, like when Volcker came to power, when the FED overruled the market and artifically set rates extremely high to kill the economy and force deflation(which still didn’t happen and eventually they gave up by 82 before riots ensued). Anything for deflation with those dweebs. So Rothschildian in nature and treason against America. Thoma would NEVER admit that or get labeled as a nut, but he should. Instead, we get his kiss assing of a plutocrat on the bandstand.

    Bernanke and the Libertarians can both go to hell.

  23. Marcus

    Is it possible that Libertarians, Socialists, populists, and the ivory tower are going to converge soon on a relatively common view toward radical reforms which must take place?

    It seems to me that while ideologies and passions are more stoked than ever, viewpoints regarding specific actions right now might not be as unaligned as we currently believe. And because passions are so strong, just a little bit of alignment can go a long way.

  24. pebird

    The only reason I want to see Bernanke not reappointed is to put Obama in the very public spotlight and (most likely) have him continue to disappoint the remaining “progressives” that are supporting him.

    I’m less concerned about Bernanke – I actually think he is doing OK given he is a technocrat and not a political leader. He is more symbolic of the failure than the cause. If not reappointed, Bernanke would still stay on and continue to design the programs. It’s more important that Obama be forced to show his hand to the public.

    Volcker, who if younger might have the energy and willingness to take the stress would be interesting, but there is no way.

    I can’t believe people would seriously think Summers would be a candidate. This has to be just to stroke his very needy large ego. This is a guy who is basically a, clever attack dog. He can’t trade his way out of a paper bag (except down the bottom – Harvard would have been better off buying munis). Plus, he is a public relations nightmare – but I would LOVE to see him in front of Congress a few times a year, just to see what The Daily Show would do to him.

    I saw Greenspan back on TV making interviews, you think he might be looking for a chance to correct his flaws in thinking?

Comments are closed.