Political Animal


October 04, 2011 1:30 PM Bernanke sees weak recovery ‘close to faltering’

By Steve Benen

If the political world paid as much attention today to Ben Bernanke’s comments as Chris Christie’s comments, the public discourse would be slightly less discouraging.

The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, offered a grim assessment of the nation’s economic health Tuesday, telling a Congressional committee that “the recovery is close to faltering.”

Mr. Bernanke said that the Federal Reserve has acted forcefully to support growth and that it stood ready to do more. But he emphasized that the rest of the government also needs to act on problems including the federal debt, unemployment, housing, trade, taxation and regulation.

“Monetary policy can be a powerful tool, but it is not a panacea for the problems currently faced by the U.S. economy,” Mr. Bernanke said. “Fostering healthy growth and job creation is a shared responsibility of all economic policy makers.”

Psst, members of Congress, I think he’s talking to you.

We continue to look at a painful policymaking dynamic. The Fed has acted, but doesn’t want to do more. President Obama is desperate to act, but has severely limited options without Congress. And Congress is currently split between those who can’t act and those who refuse to even consider acting.

In the meantime, the economic recovery, which is already weak, is “close to faltering.” It may very well lead to a rare event: an economic recession that everyone saw coming, was entirely preventable, but happened anyway due largely to Republican ignorance and neglect. This, of course, will lead voters to reward Republicans, since there’s a Democratic president.

As for Bernanke, the Fed chair has spent the last several months pleading with GOP lawmakers not to cut spending in ways that that would hurt economic growth (Republicans have ignored his advice, just as they ignored him on the debt-ceiling fiasco). This morning, he repeated that plea and went slightly further, not only denouncing job-killing spending cuts, but recommending additional government intervention to prevent a downturn. “We need to make sure that the recovery continues and doesn’t drop back,” he told the Joint Economic Committee.

Bernanke didn’t explicitly endorse additional stimulus, but he didn’t leave many doubts either, pressing lawmakers for federal spending policies that “support growth.”

Congressional Republicans, for whatever reason, don’t seem to care, haven’t even considered any jobs bills this year, and have already vowed to kill a credible and bipartisan White House plan. Perhaps it’s because improving the economy isn’t in their “interests”?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • just bill on October 04, 2011 1:43 PM:

    why doesn't that damn idiot just come right out and speak in plain english instead of couching everything he says in "safe" terms. the average man on the street can't read between the lines like we can. what he says would have a lot more weight if he just, you know, said it.

  • stormskies on October 04, 2011 1:44 PM:

    This, of course, will lead voters to reward Republicans, since thereís a Democratic president.


    Not only that but the Repiglicans solution are exactly the same ideas enacted into law that created the collapse of our economy in the first place ........

    These facts demonstrate yet again just how stupid Americans are .........beyond stupid .. most are existing at the level of cretins ............

    United Stupid America indeed .......

    USA ! USA ! USA 1

  • Burr Deming on October 04, 2011 1:44 PM:

    I'm not optimistic. A majority in the House are more devoted to preserving myths than creating jobs.

  • Anonymous on October 04, 2011 1:51 PM:

    And Congress is currently split between those who canít act and those who refuse to even consider acting.

    I think you missed a pretty important group: those absolutely dedicated to counterproductive action.

    The public debate isn't between doing things that there is some reason to believe might be helpful (though usually only offered in half-measures), and between doing things that are clearly going to make the problem worse. Doing nothing is sometimes the outcome, but that's because of the inability to get either good or bad plans through both Houses of Congress and across the President's desk in a divided government.

  • Bob on October 04, 2011 1:59 PM:

    "...but happened anyway due largely to Republican ignorance and neglect."

    I'd say, but happened due largely to Republican intent.

  • sjw on October 04, 2011 2:16 PM:

    Obama, his administration, and the Democratic leadership all should be making political hay out of this: "Republicans are sinking the economy and undermining the country! They are traitors in the fundamental sense of the term!"

    But instead Obama et al. are silent. Still. The Jobs Plan and fiery rhetoric of a month ago are forgotten. Just as Mitch McConnell knew would happen.

  • me on October 04, 2011 2:38 PM:

    welcome to the boehner recession.

    it really wasn't too long ago that the gop treated the fed chairman's word as if it was carved on tablets up on mount sinai. remember mccain's 'weekend at bernie's' reference to greenspan? now, the fed chairman is ignored by all members of the grand old party-before-country.

  • Just Someguy on October 04, 2011 3:49 PM:

    Yet when I opened this page, I also got a pop-up with some drivel about "Help Ted Cruz Stop Obama's War on Jobs." The rightwing noise machine continues to spout incoherent nonsense that is lapped up by low-info voters. Becuase of their deep-pockets , you can't escape these numnuts anywhere.

  • latim on October 04, 2011 9:36 PM:

    Steve, Steve, Steve.....there you go again....stop saying things like Republican's are trying to slow the economy for 'whatever reason' just state the facts...the Republican party right now is working to wreck the economy for political gain....

    Its amazing, appalling, unprecedented, and can't be said often enough or loud enough so that average people put the blame for things where they belong...

  • manapp99 on October 05, 2011 11:10 AM:

    There have been no actual cuts in spending as of today. There have been only promises of cuts and mostly those have been cuts in the rates of growth of future spending. Cuts are NOT the cause of the economies woes.

    Also...all this talk of the GOP wanting to wreck the economy to bring down Obama is clearly nonsense. Does anyone challenge the fact that business pumps truck loads of money to both parties in order to get legislation favorable to them? Do you think the same business are the least bit interested in seeing their fortunes fall in order to get Obama or any other politician out of office? Get real. If you believe that the GOP serves their masters in the business community then how can you believe the same GOP would/could inflict severe damage to the hand that feeds them? What makes you think the business community would let them?

  • Hal on October 05, 2011 3:39 PM:

    Psst... Bernanke also noted the that the short term attempts to fix this problem where not the answer. Complete restructuring is needed that require a long term look of dealing with debt, spending, and taxes. Instead the answer has been to print more money hence the price of gold up over $1,600.00. An indicator of the economy that bears watching, something I've gotten in the habit of doing every day.