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Bernanke’s Scorecard

The WSJ had  fairly balanced editorial on Bernanke’s tenure at the Fed.  He probably saved us from a second depression, but the long term effects of the rest of his term remain to be seen.  I have been a fan of Bernanke, but as the years pass, I have more doubts.

I think he has aided a stock market bubble, which has been good for many, but not for all.  His main justification for Quantitative Easing, the main force behind the bubble, is the Fed’s legislated mission to reduce unemployment. I don’t think the Fed can do this anymore.  It’s main basis in a trickle down theory that if business booms, then it will hire more people and unemployment will go down.  But today, businesses don’t need to hire people to expand.  Between outsourcing and automation businesses need fewer and cheaper employees to produce more and more products or services.  This is one reason that many businesses have huge piles of money sitting in banks (mostly overseas so they don’t pay taxes) that they are not investing.  The Fed continues to throw free money at them; they take it, but they don’t hire new employees; so, it has little or no effect on employment.  It turns out mainly to benefit the capitalists who use it to buy machines that are much cheaper and more efficient than people.

The zero interests rates have also been hard on honest people.  Some people on Wall Street are honest, but many are not.  Even the ones that are honest have been using the free money to gamble with, trading stocks rather than investing in businesses, with a few exceptions like Warren Buffett.  The bulk of honest people tend to live in cities and towns outside of New York.  People that have jobs would usually like to save money in a simple, safe way.  This used to be by putting money in bonds or savings accounts, but today these pay nothing.  So everyone is forced to make riskier investments, often through 401(k)s invested in the stock market.  This has been great off and on — great last year, not so great in 2008.

So Bernanke has been great for his questionably honest, slick Jew buddies on Wall Street, and not so good the the average working people around the country who would like a decent return on their savings without huge risk.  This used to be case twenty or thirty years ago.  But the current situation is probably better than the high inflation we had at times back then, which ate up the savings of those same, honest risk-averse people who are losing again today.

It’s not comforting that as Bernanke leaves and QE begins to taper off in 2014, the stock market is heading down.  The Fed says QE is ending because the economy can now support itself, but it appears that Wall Street does not believe that.  Wall Street appears to believe that America is failing, that its best days are behind it.  Unless the Fed is giving away free money, America is a losing proposition.  Right now, America is somewhat better off than some of its main competitors, Europe and Japan, for example.  China is probably in better shape, but people keep noticing signs of trouble there, too.  But there are signs of trouble in America, starting with its labor force, but including its biggest financial institutions, which have not really changed that much since 2008.  Nobody has gone to jail, and many of the changes are cosmetic.  Too big to fail is still a problem, and banks continue to produce exotic financial instruments that are probably too complicated for anybody to understand, especially what their long term impact may be.

I am generally pleased with Bernanke, but now I would only give him a “B”, whereas a few years ago I would have given him an “A”.  But a “B” is better than a “D”, which is probably what Greenspan ended up with.

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