26 Jan 2010

Art Laffer Publicly Says Bernanke Should Go

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C’mon now, in contrast to some of the other big gun economists, Laffer isn’t afraid to state the obvious. I think some of you should cut him slack for the Schiff stuff now. From a letter to the editor in the WSJ (HT2 Peter Klein):

Ben Bernanke is a good person, a fine academic and a well-respected professor. But those traits have no bearing on whether he should be reconfirmed as Federal Reserve chairman (“The Bernanke Nomination,” Review & Outlook, Jan. 25).

It’s normal practice in business, professional football and politics that the leaders of a losing organization also lose their jobs, even when fault is nigh on impossible to prove. The Obama administration has obsessed on accountability, whether it’s TARP recipients paying bonuses, or the firing of GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner. It wants businesses and banks to be held accountable.

Applying accountability principles, there’s no way Chairman Bernanke should be reconfirmed by the Senate, let alone reappointed by the Obama administration. Over the past six years, during the U.S. economy’s biggest train wreck since the Great Depression, Ben Bernanke has been involved in policy at the highest levels. He was a member of the Federal Reserve Board and Alan Greenspan’s right-hand person from 2002 to June 2005. He then became chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors from June 2005 to January 2006, and finally Federal Reserve chairman from February 2006 to the present. He’s been at the helm from the very beginning of this Great Recession. That alone warrants a “no” vote on reconfirmation.

In addition, the Fed’s behavior over the past 15 months has put America on a very dangerous path. The Fed has increased the monetary base (high-powered or wholesale money) by the largest amount ever, from colonial times to the present, times 10. Without an exit strategy, inflation is a virtual certainty over the coming decade, while an effective exit strategy virtually assures a further weakening of the U.S. economy. Chairman Bernanke has put the U.S. economy in a lose/lose situation. So on substantive grounds he also should not be reconfirmed.

And lastly, on a more personal note, he doesn’t have the gravitas of a Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan or William McChesney Martin. In this day and age of crisis management, gravitas is essential. Almost anyone would be better than Mr. Bernanke.

Arthur B. Laffer

Nashville, Tenn.

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