It was not so long ago that Ben Bernanke was the bane of some economic commentators. While debating the Fed chief's fate when his position expires in January, a former IMF deputy director called for Bernanke's head in no uncertain terms:
If Bernanke were indeed to be reappointed as Fed Chairman...one would be reappointing to the job the very person whose fingerprints, along with Alan Greenspan's, are all over that recession.
But in the last month, the Fed chief has won battle after battle, culminating in today's poll published in the Wall Street Journal that found overwhelming support for keeping him on the job when the term ends in January. He faced down his critics in Congress, bested his erstwhile rival for the job, Larry Summers, and has won the full support of the financial sector.
How did Bernanke do it?
- He's Aggressive, says Christopher Swann at Reuters. "Bernanke should try to hold on to his swashbuckling spirit."
- Big Supporters: Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, and other leading economists told Bloomberg that "it's really very hard to see how anyone could have done more to stem this crisis."
- Wall Street Fans, Joseph Carson of AllianceBerstein told the Wall Street Journal. "He deserves a lot of credit for stabilizing the financial markets. Confidence in recovery would be damaged if he was not reappointed."
Bernanke's increasing favor certainly owes something to the credit Washington as a whole has been getting for beating back depression. Plus, his canny stumping tour throughout the summer--which included appearances on 60 Minutes, Jim Lehrer, and the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal--didn't hurt.
But some critics are not convinced. They think analysts' high opinion of Bernanke has more to do with forgetfulness than good judgment. As Dean Baker writes of the WSJ report in the American Prospect:
The article never once mentions Bernanke's error in allowing the housing bubble to grow to a size where its collapse would inevitably produce a disastrous downturn...It would be difficult to imagine a more catastrophic mistake by an economic policymaker than missing such an enormous economic behavior. There are few people in any job who have ever committed such an enormous error.