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Bernanke for Treasury Secretary? | The Nation

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William Greider

William Greider

The fragile and faltering state of American democracy.

Bernanke for Treasury Secretary?

Believe it or not, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has been nominated for the job by a fully certified liberal, Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect. My old friend Bob got scores of brickbats from upset readers when he posted this idea on his Huffington Post blog. But the case for Bernanke deserves serious consideration. He has the battle experience and scars certainly as Fed chairman in crisis. Plus, he is not a banker nor dutiful camp follower to arrogant financiers.

That’s enough for me. I second the nomination.

More to the point, as the nation’s central banker, Bernanke has been a lonely dissenter among top federal officials—bravely insisting that the economy still needs greater intervention by government to create jobs and revive growth. Elected politicians, meanwhile, argue over how to subject folks to deeper austerity, more suffering. In fact, Bernanke has been making the case for jobless Americans that normally in the past is made most strenuously by liberal Democrats. The left and other citizens should rally around Bernanke’s appointment while leaning hard on our reelected president to come up with a much more ambitious economic strategy.

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While the media obsesses on the “Perils of Pauline” (better known as the “fiscal cliff”), congressional insiders know the tone and direction of Obama’s second term will be known rather soon when he begins to refill cabinet slots. Geithner has promised to go home to Wall Street, where a grand career awaits his return. Larry Summers, the other architect of Obama’s disappointing economic strategy, is back at Harvard teaching, though we still face the danger that he wants to return to DC as new chair of the Fed. Other establishment names in circulation for Treasury are mostly a dreadful lot—budget director Jack Lew, former North Dakota senator Kent Conrad—because they are “austerity freaks,” more bean counters who do not grasp our economic predicament. What the country needs are people with political imagination and the courage to take some big risks.

Bob Kuttner deserves an answer from the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue. After all, Ben Bernanke is a fiendishly apt choice—a Republican conservative from the church of Milton Friedman though he has been hammered by the GOP right-wingers. A splendid choice when you think about it. And there are many more important jobs to fill. I nominate Bob Kuttner for Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors.

In the latest print issue of The Nation, Robert Borsage writes that “A ‘Grand Bargain’ on the Fiscal Cliff Would be a Grand Betrayal.”

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