As the Atlantic Wire noted last week, the clouds have parted for Ben Bernanke. Both journalists and economists are looking more warmly on the Fed chairman as his possible reappointment looms. But some bloggers think yesterday's New York Times article, "Bernanke, a Hero to His Own, Can't Shake Critics," came a little too close to fawning.
The humanizing portrait began with a discussion of his grueling work schedule, noting that he recently took two days off "for the first time in two years" for his son's wedding. The author, Edmund Andrews, recited all the credit given Bernanke by his peers, contrasting it with the silence from the White House regarding his reappointment. Andrews even briefly hinted that criticisms of Bernanke may be groundless, suggesting the chairman made the best of a nearly impossible situation:
Amid the chaos, Fed and Treasury officials made numerous mistakes. Their original idea for the $700 billion to buy up bad mortgage assets held by banks has yet to get off the ground.
But economists say Mr. Bernanke’s most important accomplishment was to create staggering amounts of money out of thin air.
Bloggers couldn't help scoffing:
- Brilliant "That's certainly new," snickered Vox Day of the Vox Popoli blog this morning. "And bold! I mean, who would have ever come up with the idea of using a central bank to create vast sums of money out of nothing? And who can doubt that this will permanently solve the problems originally caused by creating large sums of money out of nothing?"
- Kill the Hero Worship Blogger Kevin Drum of Mother Jones focused on another part of the article, which credited Bernanke with "tossing out the Fed’s standard playbook" and included "Wall Street bailouts, shotgun weddings, emergency loan programs, vast amounts of newly printed money and the lowest interest rates in American history" among his accomplishments. "I really don't have it in for Bernanke or anything (honest!)," Drum began, "but this level of adulation puzzles me." Bernanke accomplished a lot, he acknowledged, "but is everyone really so sure that no other Fed chairman would have acted similarly?"
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Yves Smith of the popular Naked Capitalism blog was aghast at the Times piece, which she said "verges on hagiography." Writing that the article "rather obtusely either underplays or completely misses the major complaints against the Fed," Smith marvelled at the New York Times' coverage of Wall Street opinions on the subject: "Of COURSE Wall Street loves Ben. He's written lots of blank checks to them, and demanded nothing in return." She summarized the general message thus: "All hail the conquering hero, except those mean, unappreciative Congressmen."
Update, 12:47 p.m.: Matthew Yglesias has joined his fellow bloggers, expressing his distaste for the Times piece. Yglesias agreed that the chairman "has done an admirable job of trying to clean up the mess created by the errors of the school of thought to which he adhered. But Like Kevin Drum," he continued, "I feel that this is a strange basis on which to rest the burgeoning Cult of Bernanke."