If the political world paid as much attention today to Ben Bernanke’s comments as Chris Christie’s comments, the public discourse would be slightly less discouraging.
The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, offered a grim assessment of the nation’s economic health Tuesday, telling a Congressional committee that “the recovery is close to faltering.”
Mr. Bernanke said that the Federal Reserve has acted forcefully to support growth and that it stood ready to do more. But he emphasized that the rest of the government also needs to act on problems including the federal debt, unemployment, housing, trade, taxation and regulation.
“Monetary policy can be a powerful tool, but it is not a panacea for the problems currently faced by the U.S. economy,” Mr. Bernanke said. “Fostering healthy growth and job creation is a shared responsibility of all economic policy makers.”
Psst, members of Congress, I think he’s talking to you.
We continue to look at a painful policymaking dynamic. The Fed has acted, but doesn’t want to do more. President Obama is desperate to act, but has severely limited options without Congress. And Congress is currently split between those who can’t act and those who refuse to even consider acting.
In the meantime, the economic recovery, which is already weak, is “close to faltering.” It may very well lead to a rare event: an economic recession that everyone saw coming, was entirely preventable, but happened anyway due largely to Republican ignorance and neglect. This, of course, will lead voters to reward Republicans, since there’s a Democratic president.
As for Bernanke, the Fed chair has spent the last several months pleading with GOP lawmakers not to cut spending in ways that that would hurt economic growth (Republicans have ignored his advice, just as they ignored him on the debt-ceiling fiasco). This morning, he repeated that plea and went slightly further, not only denouncing job-killing spending cuts, but recommending additional government intervention to prevent a downturn. “We need to make sure that the recovery continues and doesn’t drop back,” he told the Joint Economic Committee.
Bernanke didn’t explicitly endorse additional stimulus, but he didn’t leave many doubts either, pressing lawmakers for federal spending policies that “support growth.”
Congressional Republicans, for whatever reason, don’t seem to care, haven’t even considered any jobs bills this year, and have already vowed to kill a credible and bipartisan White House plan. Perhaps it’s because improving the economy isn’t in their “interests“?