Business Breakfast: Why Won't Bernanke Do Anything?


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What did we learn from the Ben Bernanke's public musings yesterday? Very little. "Usually there's at least something he says that's somewhat surprising," my colleague Daniel Indiviglio ruefully told me after following the testimony for a few plodding hours. Instead, the Fed chair said what we already know: no new stimulus, unless the recession bites again. Somewhat more surprising: Democrats are lining up to extend the Bush tax cuts -- for everybody. Momentum is building to extend the whole thing for a year and deal with it when the economy is, hopefully, better. In other news, the revolving door between government and oil lobbyists spins particularly fast. Speaking of spin: Politico has a new piece on Andrew Breitbart and Tucker Carlson's complete and utter domination of the news cycle this week.

Don't Expect Any More Fed Help Unless the Economy Double-Dips The Federal Reserve would take action if necessary to keep the economic recovery on track, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday, even as he asserted that he expects the expansion to continue. [Washington Post]

Why Isn't He Doing Anything? Put yourself in Mr. Bernanke's chair. When the Fed began buying mortgages, the gap between yields on mortgages and Treasurys was wide; now it isn't. Mortgage rates are very low and the housing sector is still moribund; it isn't clear pushing mortgage rates down another one-quarter percentage point would do much. The Fed could buy more Treasurys, trying to push yields on 10-year Treasurys below the already low 3%. But that could backfire. With all the deficit angst around, a Fed move to buy Treasurys could provoke cries of "they're monetizing the debt" and push up long-term rates rather than lowering them. [WSJ]

Growing Momentum to Extend the Bush Tax Cuts  Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that Congress shouldn't allow taxes on the wealthy to rise until the economy is on a sounder footing. Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said through a spokesman that he also supported extending all the expiring tax cuts for now, adding that he wanted to offset the impact on federal deficits as much as possible. [WSJ]

The Tucker/Breitbart Show Forget the oil spill or the economy. It was the emails of some liberal writers and a speech by an obscure Agriculture Department official from Georgia that drove the conversation in Washington, thanks to two relatively new and increasingly influential right-leaning websites, and the two sharply contrasting conservatives behind them. [Politico]

The 75% Factor for Oil Lobbyists in Washington Three out of every four lobbyists who represent oil and gas companies previously worked in the federal government, a proportion that far exceeds the usual revolving-door standards on Capitol Hill, a Washington Post analysis shows.[WaPo]
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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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