Does Ben Bernanke Secretly Want Fiscal Expansion?

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"Does Ben Bernanke Secretly Want Fiscal Expansion?"

Don’t get me wrong, I liked this Alan Blinder column qua economic policy commentary, but I don’t find his mind-reading speculations very plausible:

The two main thoughts that are probably going through Mr. Bernanke’s head today are, first, “I sure wish I could get some help from fiscal policy,” and second, “I probably can’t, so I’d better do whatever I can.” He’s right on both counts.

The Fed Chairman’s not locked up in the Tower of London. He’s not mute. He’s not even unwilling to comment on fiscal issues. But when he gave a big speech on fiscal policy on October 4, he focused entirely on the need for long-term deficit reductions. And I agree with him that such reductions are desirable. But I also think, just like Alan Blinder, that in the short term a bigger deficit would be helpful. If Bernanke wanted to say that, he had a great opportunity. But he didn’t. Presumably for the same reason that he’s consistently acted like a conservative Republican in other regards over the past two years—he’s a conservative Republican.

I think people tend to overestimate the number of mistakes Barack Obama has made in his presidency. But the flipside of that is that they underestimate the severity of the mistakes that are real. Giving the most important economic policy job in the country to someone who doesn’t share his values, ideology, and partisan loyalty was a big big big mistake and it’s reflected in Bernanke’s conduct around questions like this one.

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