Progress on “No on Bernanke,” Including Sanders Putting Hold on Confirmation

The efforts to block Bernanke’s confirmation are getting some traction.

First, Bernie Sanders of Vermont said he is putting a hold on Bernanke’s confirmation. A hold (in lay terms) is a threat to filibuster. This is actually pretty serious and seldom done. It takes 60 votes to beat one back, and there are enough procedural roadblocks that a filibustering Senator can throw so that it holds up Senate business for a few days, even if it is ultimately unsuccessful. And by current tallies, there are a few Senators on the right who are also vehemently opposed to Bernanke and would support this move.

Now so far, this is merely an obstacle to reappointment, but this is still much more serious opposition than anyone would have expected even a week ago.

Second, a Rasmussen poll (hat tip reader Andrew) released today found that only 21% of Americans favor Bernanke’s reappointment. This is significant not simply due to the lousy results, but that Rasmussen bothered to run the poll at all. This was not a client sponsored poll; Rasmussen thought this was newsworthy enough to run this on its own. Admittedly, a large proportion are undecided, but twice as many oppose a Bernanke reappointment as support it.

This says that the calls to Senators are making a difference. Remember, hardly anyone ever bothers voice opposition to this sort of confirmation. And it’s important to recognize that the symbolism extends beyond the question of Bernanke’s continued tenure. This is a shot across the bow as far as Wall Street friendly policies are concerned. It puts the Congress and Administration on notice that the public is aware of how badly they have been had and are continuing to be bled on the financial front and sees the conduct of economic policy as important.

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  1. call me ahab

    I think the poll may clue a few Senators in that a vote against BB is the wise choice-

    why renominate the very person “in charge” who did not see the financial crisis coming-

    you know- “sub-prime is contained”

    from what i read Taleb is going into seclusion if BB is renominated-

    how that helps I don’t know- but it sure shows there is a bit of revulsion to a BB renomination

  2. AnonymousMonetarist

    That’ll be all, Senator Sanders

    You had Geithner sign a phony asset transfer


    You doctored the repos.

    Damnit Sanders!!

    I’ll ask for the fourth time. You ordered–

    You want answers?

    I think I’m entitled to them.

    You want answers?!

    I want the truth.

    You can’t handle the truth!

    (And nobody moves.)

    Son, we live in a world that has markets.
    And those markets have to be guarded by banksters
    with money. Who’s gonna do it? You? You,
    Senator Bunning? I have a greater
    responsibility than you can possibly
    fathom. You weep for capitalism and you
    curse the banksters. You have that luxury.
    You have the luxury of not knowing what I
    know: That capitalism’s death, while tragic,
    probably saved jobs. And my existence,
    while grotesque and incomprehensible to
    you, saves jobs.

    You don’t want the truth. Because deep
    down, in places you don’t talk about at
    parties, you want me at the wheel.
    You need me there …
    We use words like ‘growth’,’stability’,
    ‘profits’…we use these words as the
    backbone to a life spent defending
    something. You use ’em as a punchline.

    I have neither the time nor the
    inclination to audit myself for a man who
    rises and sleeps under the blanket of the
    very guarantees I provide, then questions the
    manner in which I provide it. I’d prefer
    you just said thank you and went on your
    way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a
    private sector job and stand a post. Either way, I
    don’t give a damn what you think you’re
    entitled to.

    Did you doctor the repos?

    I did the job you sent me to do.

    Did you doctor the repos?

    You’re goddamn right I did.

  3. alex

    Yay! I’m sure that after reading my email Sen. Schumer decided he definitely won’t vote to re-confirm.

    All kidding aside, this is good news. Yves deserves credit for her part in stirring up grass roots opposition.

    Now I gotta move to Vermont so I can vote for Bernie (hey, he started out as a New Yorker too).

  4. psychohistorian

    I both emailed and called Senator Jeff Merkely of Oregon. After doing that I remembered his and the rest of congress’s response to the TARP bailout request which the public wholeheartedly was against. It is not like they really listen to and uphold the ethics of the public at large.

    I am already against the next war on what or whomever it is focused on…..

    Someday the evolution is going to come.

  5. Doug Terpstra

    Excellent news. It makes no sense at all to renew the license of a guy who ran the bus into a ditch and won’t submit to an exam (audit). Sentor Sanders is a champion of the people. Here’s a link to send thanks and support.

  6. Justicia

    Three cheers for the Socialist! At least someone inside the beltway is looking out for the taxpayers.

    1. alex

      I know Sanders calls himself a socialist, but in reality he’s being more of a capitalist than the supposed capitalists. Times are strange, but thank heavens for Bernie (regardless of what he calls himself).

  7. Srini

    I have written to Both of my senator Kay Hagan and Richar Burr of North Carolina. I also wrote to Senator Sanders thanking him for putting a hold. Hopefully, this all makes some difference.

  8. Lilguy

    Wonder if Congress can recall ALL the Fed governors? That would send a message.

    FWIW–I sent an email to Sen. Warner, VA, who is my Senator on the Senate Banking & Financial Services Committee opposing Ben Bernanke’s reconfirmation.

    1. jdmckay

      Wonder if Congress can recall ALL the Fed governors?


      I read last week, for 1st time (can’t find link @ the moment), just how these guys are selected… which I didn’t know. (from memory) There are supposed to be 3 categories of regional feds on each board. 1 of those is supposed to represent the taxpayers (or general public?).

      This category, as well as other 2 (1 represents banks, the other I don’t recall) are appointed by… BANKERS!!!

      Read to me like having ACLU lawyers staffed by Federalist Society.

      Just saying…

  9. Amit Chokshi

    What does this accomplish at any rate. Bernanke is just a figure head at this point for the broader ideology. If he gets turned down, the next head of the Fed would be brought up by Obama and would likely be Larry Summers. Seriously, is there a difference between Summers or Bernanke? And since Larry is a “genius” to most and would be relatively new and unknown to the broad public, the Senate and Congress who are largely bought and paid for by the financial industry will back him and we’ll be back to square one. We’re screwed as it is, doesn’t matter who is doing it to us if they’re doing it just the same.

    1. jdmckay

      What does this accomplish at any rate. (…) If he gets turned down, the next head of the Fed would be brought up by Obama and would likely be Larry Summers.

      BO’s approval ratings way down. Certainly he knows this, and certainly (particulary given his econ advisers he’s ignored… SIC Volker) certainly he knows why there’s pushback now.

      And certainly he knows that, if they’re rejecting Bernacke then it’s unlikely a clone will get the votes.

      It’s way late, but better late then never.

      I think this accomplishes a lot. I only lament fact that our lawmakers did not have the where-with-all to see this coming earlier this year.

  10. Moopheus

    Really, are we being played? Is Ben being thrown under the bus so someone even worse can get the job? Is Congress so stupid to think that if people are mad enough to object to Bernanke, they’ll be okay with real Wall Street insiders like Dimon or Summers? Well, yes, obviously.

    I think I’m going to feel ill now.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Dimon is not a candidate, they’d want a Real Economist. He’s being noised about as Treasury Sec if Geithner gets the heave-ho. I have not heard anyone suggest him as a possible Fed secretary.

      I don’t see Larry as a candidate either. Larry really wanted the job, Really really really really badly too. The fact that Obama decided to nominate Bernanke (a Bush appointee, remember) says he thought Larry had too much baggage (Andrei Shleiffer, DE Shaw, all those speeches and fees from Wall Street firms). That was before the scrutiny of Bernanke, which is part of a backlash against Wall Street friendly policies. If the Senate gives Bernanke, who is clean on a personal level, a hard time, they’d rake Summers over the coals.

      And some very bad press came out in the last week re Summers and how he was responsible for the huge losses at Harvard. He basically overrode the loud objections of two heads of Harvard Fund Management and took way too much risk.

      1. Amit Chokshi

        I don’t see that there are many others that Obama and others would consider. His inner circle is Summers and his lackey Geithner. He marginalized Volcker, the best of his finance crew and one that questions the current system the most, so he’s more likely to go with what Summers and Tim tell him. I don’t see Congress and the Senate raelly caring about who is next, they just want a head on a pike and Bernanke is convenient.

        Summers is teflon, despite the HFM issues and ignoring the warnings on the risk of HFM and deep sixing his critic, despite the problems he had with the African American studies prof at Harvard, and various comments he’s made re women/science/math, this guy gets puff (puke) pieces in big magazines. Think you even linked to one a month or so ago.

        Would Obama go with any Fed govs, like say Janet Yellen? I don’t see that because it’s not just Bernanke but the Fed “brand” as being radioactive. Then with markets a little more buoyant and the economy experiencing an anemic recovery, those for status quo would say we can’t have change, what will happen to the recovery.

        also, politic dynamics make it hard to find anyone that would be a legit replacement that represented a change from the ideology followed by Bernanke and Summers.

        The Repukes only want to can Bernanke for political reasons to hammer Obama and stir up their tea bagging constituents but these guys are so idiotic and think inflation is a real risk. They would be confusing monetary policy with budget issues and be crowing for a guy that shows “fiscal discipline” and would raise rates now.

        The Dems are bought and paid for (as of course the right is) by the fins and only want Bernake’s head for the same political good will but they want to keep their funding source happy so that means can Bernanke but get a Bernanke clone – as in Summers. Even with all of the Summers baggage, Summers would probably sleepwalk through a hearing. I don’t see this guy getting rattled anywhere near Geithner seems to. In fact, I can see summers drinking his diet coke, throwing a few jokes out and “charming” most people.

        You’ll get the occasional Sanders or Grayson or Kucinich or Feingolds or Franken to complain and as awesome as they are, they can’t change anything.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I read this differently than you do.

          Obama did not marginalize Volcker. Timmy and Larry did. They are in DC, Volcker is not, Timmy is a Cabinet member and has ready access. Timmy and Larry work fist in glove and Larry is a bully to boot. Obama has never been interested in economics, he delegated it and this is how the dogfight came out.

          But Volcker is too old, meethinks.

          But Geithner is already getting heat, which redounds to Larry, the two are identified with each other. Team Obama assumed Bernanke was safe (he’s an academic, no personal dirty laundry, unlike Timmy and Larry, big time, comes off well on camera). The fact that he is getting any pushback is a huge wake-up call for the Obama camp, it means their economic policies are backfiring politically in a much bigger way than they thought. If the dump Bernanke movement gets any traction, Timmy and Larry are weakened.

          1. Amit Chokshi

            Yeah I agree with all of that in terms of Timmy being Larry’s “protege” or errand boy and the two being looked at together. I don;t think Volcker should be a replacement either, it was more to stress that one of the guys that made the most sense and didn’t buy in with the wall st crowd didn’t seem to get a lot of traction/respect overall. Same with Warren, she’s awesome but is more of the populist heroine where she gets her dylan ratigan appearances and that’s about it. I agree with Marinus in the comments, doesn’t seem like there are any “right people” for the job and if they are, Obama won’t find or appoint them.

            Get rid of Bernanke, the short list includes William Dudley or something like that. Oh well, we’ll see what unfolds.

          2. jdmckay

            Obama did not marginalize Volcker. Timmy and Larry did.

            I respectfully disagree. BO’s the decider. Volcker was advising him prior to election, as were others from Volcker’s schools.

            Timmy is a Cabinet member and has ready access.

            He wasn’t a cabinet member before BO made him one… just another face in Barack’s pool of advisers.

            Obama has never been interested in economics,

            sheesh… now you tell me.

            (…) he delegated it and this is how the dogfight came out.

            he delegated being the operative phrase. What top dog anywhere gets a pass for delegating matters of this significance to folks identifiable by their ideology (and in this case track record under Shrubbie)… particularly when their ideology played out as expected?

            No… I disagree completely. I think you’re making excuses for BO. And as I’ve said elsewhere, I took months off work to work around the clock here to get BO elected.

            I think he deceived me, frankly…

            But Volcker is too old, meethinks.

            I think he’s made good sense in what I’ve heard from him since election. Based on that, I’ll take risk of his age over the rest of BO’s econ crew.

        2. Fair Economist

          There are always people to appoint with the desired political/economic views. They’ll just appoint some Fed governor without a pro-bubble track record – or a Republican economist for “bipartisanship”.

        3. jdmckay

          (…) so he’s more likely to go with what Summers and Tim tell him.

          Maybe, maybe not. AFAIC depends on whether ‘da prez grows a spine. Tim is getting congressional pushback similar to big Ben.

  11. nowhereman

    I sent an email to Sanders thanking him. I really don’t believe that Dimon has a chance should Bernanke be refused. I believe the Admin is running scared. If Ben goes, so does Geitner and Summers and we will see Volker and Warren take prominence, else the faith of the electorate is completely lost.

    1. DownSouth

      Thank you for your optimism, nowhereman.

      The amount of defeatism and nihilism expressed on this thread boggles the mind.

      Reinhold Niebuhr wrote an essay on this sort of thing. He called it “The children of light and the children of darkness.” The defeatism and nihilism he believed emanated from either the children of darkness or from confused children of light.

      Martin Luther King also wrote and spoke extensively on this subject.

      And for a secular version of the dangers of defeatism there’s Hannah Arendt.

  12. Kyo Gisors

    Bernanke is a nice helpless scapegoat, but his immolation is not necessary for reform, and not sufficient. During the crisis, Bernanke was the lipstick on Paulson’s Senor-Wences fist. Now he’s got Goldman Sachs’ hand up his shirt. He’s so far over his head in that snakepit, so infinitely malleable, politically and organizationally, that with a strong Treasury Secretary you could make anything out of him. He’s putty in competent hands. But instead of competent hands you’ve got Geithner, brought up to be the banker’s perfect butler. So whether or not Bernanke is spared, you just move on to Geithner. The GOP would love to help destroy him, anything to weaken their enemies. Draw Geithner’s replacement from the ranks of hedge fund stars, they hate the banks they came from just like everybody else. Let them have regulatory forbearance in return for hardnosed resolution of zombie banks and sector structure rules that let them grow a little more.

  13. bob

    BB is the perfect central banker. He is exactly what you want, someone who will never Balk. The same reason for which Yves claims he is medicated is the reason for his sucess. He does not blink.

    In this reguard, he is a prefect banker. There are never any problems, just things to be worked on. Panic prone and banker don’t mix.

    In his capactity as a regulator he is a complete failure.

    This brings us back to the same problem, we still don’t have any fucking cops. Replacing BB will not change this.

    I really have to go with the devil I (and the rest of the world) know, then to have to get another candidate qualified. I can only imagine the choices, and the process, with the markets being tossed from side to side in the process.

    I assume the majority of the senate are in the same place.

    Bernie rocks. For those not familiar with VT politics, it borders on schizophrenia. None of them want to be seen or associated with anyone else. They are independent to the extreme, which will probably in the end, prove to be Bernie’s downfall.

    If Phil Gramm were still around he would hijack the campaign from Bernie to kill it. The new bank bagman may make himself known now, pay attention. There may be a fight to see who gets golden chair.

    The banks just bought the regulatory reform process. Do you really want to see how much more of our money they are willing to spend to buy the fed chair?

  14. spectator

    Many here seem ignorant of recent Fed history. Bernanke, even more than Greenspan, was the architect of the Great Moderation, savings glut, and other cheerleading of the credit bubble that led to this crisis. There’s a reason he was called Helicopter Ben.

    Bernanke’s hand in this disaster cannot be overstated. Greenspan may have been at the helm, but Bernanke is the intellectual architect of the financial crisis.

    How can anyone justify keeping him in charge of anything?

  15. MarinusWA

    I have to say, even if Bernake bites the dusts, who’s to say that his replacement won’t be more of the same? It should be clear by now that getting the right people on these positions is all but impossible for Obama’s team.

    Are there even right people for this job?

    1. Amit Chokshi

      Grassley is a lying piece of scum, a guy that complains aobut big gov’t while big gov’t supported his pathetic farms. had to have an 80 y/o lady correct him on his death panels, etc comments. and obviously, if there’s one thing you can be right about is if beck and grassley are both concerned about it (hyperinflation), it’s of zero concern to the real players. listen to a guy like gross that barreled into treasuries or these scumbags?

  16. andrew

    Senator Grassley on bloomberg: hasn’t masde up his mind. Main concern is return of 70’s style “hyperinflation” (his use of the term, not mine). Won’t vote for Bernanke unless he clearly explains how he will mop up the liquidity).

  17. Sasher

    Just sent this letter to Senator Sanders:

    Dear Senator Sanders:

    I want to send you my heartiest congratulations for your bold threat to vote against Mr. Bernanke in his reconfirmation as Chairman. I can’t think of a more courageous stand by a public official throughout this crisis. Please know that I stand by your decision and will do whatever I can to help out in your re-election. Though I am from New Jersey, I already feel a kind of kinship with the people of Vermont and the fresh breath of freedom that you all breathe there vs. the putrid stench of corruption that I smell here in Midtown. Three Cheers to you and keep doing the good work. Mr. Bernanke should not be re-appointed and if he had any sense of shame he would withdraw his nomination. We need you to explore all options to make this eventuality a reality.

    Thanks again,

  18. Ina Pickle

    Actually, Yves, they put holds on nominations/reappointments at all levels very often. The question is whether they PUBLICIZE that fact. It is a frequent maneuver, and is used to make the administration return your phone calls on issues related to the appointment (or unrelated if you are feeling really nasty/put out). Procedurally, there are a tremendous number of tools at a Senator’s disposal.

    Publicizing it, on the other hand, is a different matter. I’m glad that Bernie decided to stand up and behave like a socialist! It’s about time. He’s at his best lobbing bombs from the back bench, and has been a little slow adjusting to the Senate’s different atmosphere. I’m thrilled that he’s getting the hang of it, and hope that he will be increasingly vocal and effective.

    1. alex

      “I’m glad that Bernie decided to stand up and behave like a socialist!”

      Act like a socialist? You could make just as good an argument that he’s acting like a capitalist. Whatever “ist” you want to call it by though, I commend him.

      The Bernanke school is crony capitalism, which is more like feudalism than true capitalism. The secret to success is to curry favor with the Court and get a Royal Monopoly. Lord Blankfein and Lord Dimon have succeeded. And like any responsible feudal lord, they spread some of the wealth to their lesser vassals.

      1. JTFaraday

        YES. And we’ve been seeing this kind of cronyism more and more in all areas of American society. We don’t want that. Just look at the ridiculous obsession with the ivy league–this was not so prevalent 20 years ago–you weren’t tainted because you hailed from a public research institution.

        But there is no area more dangerous than this.

  19. Fred Beloit

    I really didn’t have a position on BB until I read that a Communist Senator from Communist Vermont was against BB. Now I’m for BB, this must be the correct answer. BB for life term.

  20. DownSouth


    I’m watching the confirmation hearings on

    Sen. Jim Bunning, Republican Kentucky, lambasted Bernanke!

    “You are the definition of moral hazard!” he fired.

    After listening to Bernanke’s comments there remains little doubt what the agenda is, and that is to curtail entitlements. He is complicit in painting a big, red target on social security and medicare.

  21. andrew

    I haven’t seen this publicly anywhere, but a staffer at te Dallas office of Senator Hutchinson said she would be voting against Bernanke.

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