Last week, the Republicans in the Senate once again showed that they are a big part of what is wrong with Washington. Twenty-two of them joined forty-eight Democrats in voting for Ben Bernanke for another four year term as Federal Reserve chairman. Do the math. If those twenty-two Republicans had voted against Bernanke he would have been sent packing by a vote of 52-48.
Now, I know the Fed isn’t going anywhere, so someone else probably just as bad as Bernanke would ultimately have been appointed if he had been rejected. But the point to be made here is that Senate Republicans squandered a real opportunity to stand on principle. After all, aren’t they the ones who almost completely stood against Obama’s $800 billion “stimulus” package and continually criticize the Administration for its reckless spending. In comparison, Bernanke’s wheeling and dealing as Fed chair makes what Congress and the President have spent look like pocket change. Under Bernanke the Fed has spent $1.25 trillion just on its program to hold down mortgage rates. And who do the Republicans think printed all that new money and bought all those treasury bonds in order to monetize Obama’s big spending? It was Bernanke’s Fed which currently holds the notes on over $5 trillion of our national debt. Thus, the Republicans can lambast Obama for his absurd appetite to spend, and rightly so, but they supported the man who indirectly makes the deficit spending happen. They are either oblivious to this fact or hypocritical.
Of course, Senate Republicans will justify their support for Bernanke based on the claim that he is the person whose leadership took our economy from the brink of collapse and placed it on stable ground. Naturally, no one can prove that and who is to say that we aren’t headed for an even bigger crash because of his inflationary policies. The big question to ask in refutation of this theory is, if he was so good at handling the crisis how come he didn’t recognize it until it happened? If one were to go back and look at Bernanke’s appearances on news shows from 2005-2007, it is clear that right up until the end of the bubble he denied its existence and claimed the fundamentals of our economy were strong. Isn’t a major responsibility of the Fed to recognize trouble and prevent or alleviate the pain of business cycle downturns? Bernanke was way off on this one and that alone should have cost him his job.
Bernanke has been a complete disaster as Fed chairman. Additionally, it is just a matter of time before his big government monetary policies cause another crisis. Senate Republicans, like Orrin Hatch of Utah and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have always talked a good game about small limited government. Then when they have a real chance to actually vote for it and win they fold like cheap lawn chairs. That is why there is no hope for the current Republican Party to lead us back to the good old days of constitutional, fiscally and monetarily sound government. That is why many Americans are fed up with our political system. The next time Republicans gripe about the Democrats propensity to spend us into oblivion remember it was the man chosen by Bush and approved by Senate Republicans that makes it all possible.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina.