Monday, October 24, 2005

New Fed chairman

Bush is apparently going to appoint Ben S. Bernanke, his top economic advisor, to replace Alan Greenspan as the Fed Chair. While that title, under the circumstances, sounds a bit like calling someone Karl Rove's top ethics advisor, so far as I know Bernanke is fairly blameless. Rove is actually Bush's top economic policy (and everything else) advisor.

Greenspan's would be harder shoes to fill were it 5 years ago, when his reputation was much better than it is now. Still, he did seem to have an odd talent for intuiting macroeconomic micro-trends, so we will see how Bernanke meets what are likely to be tougher challenges.

Interesting side bit: Glenn Hubbard and Martin Feldstein, both among the leading conservative economists in the U.S. today, were not named although considered possible candidates. For Feldstein, I am wondering whether this will result in his having a more independent voice in public policy discussion than he has had over the last few years as a hardworking member of the Bush Administration's hallelujah chorus.

In the 1980s, Feldstein showed great courage and integrity in speaking out for fiscal prudence at a point when the problems were much less severe than they are today. He seems to have been retreating from that stance ever since. It has been as if Sergeant York, after capturing all those German soldiers, had spent the rest of his life wishing that he had just surrendered.

Perhaps Feldstein will feel freer to put his true Sergeant York hat back on, now that the glittering prize is not his. What else could he possibly care about that the Administration can provide or deny?

UPDATE: Secretary of the Treasury, perhaps? But who would really want that job at this point?

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