“I got along with him fine. But Ben Bernanke thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, and wanted everyone to know it,” remarked an acquaintance who used to sit in policy meetings with him. I was reminded of the remark when I read that Bernanke would become the first Federal Reserve Chairman to hold press conferences after meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). Bernanke specialized at Princeton in the Great Depression. Yet he ignored Jacques Rueff’s contemporaneous explanation. As the chart shows, U.S. stock market speculation rose and fell step for step with foreign dollar reserves invested in New York. Bernanke and the Fed were thus surprised when the crude oil price rocketed to $150 a barrel in 2008 after earlier massive expansion of foreign official dollar reserves, triggering another stock crash—and by the latest round of commodity-led inflation, due this time mostly to the Fed’s doubling of its balance sheet after that crash. How will lectures to the press wear, as evidence mounts of policy failures caused by the Federal Reserve ignoring the results of its own and other central banks’ actions?
What If the Smartest Guy in the Room Doesn’t Get It?
John D. Mueller is the Lehrman Institute Fellow in Economics at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.