This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
How I wish that Ben Bernanke would get caught e-mailing photos of his underwear-clad groin. Otherwise we don’t stand a chance of reversing this administration’s economic policy, which is shaping up to be every bit as disastrous as that of its predecessor.
Indeed, the Fed chairman’s much anticipated remarks on Tuesday take one back to the contemptuous indifference of a Herbert Hoover to the public’s suffering: Bernanke dismissed the wobbly economy with its anemic 1.8 percent first-quarter growth as merely “somewhat slower than expected.” The rise in unemployment to 9.1 percent was “some loss of momentum.”
The problem with Bernanke is that he is utterly clueless as to the stark pain and fear endured by the 50 million Americans who have experienced, or face the prospect of, losing their homes. His remarks reflected the insularity of a ruling-power elite that is magnificently impervious to the damage that Bernanke’s policies in the current and past administration helped inflict on what used to be called the American way of life. This is a man who assured us there was no housing crisis, while his policies at the Fed encouraged the mortgage securitization swindles that caused the meltdown of the economy.
His full statement stands as a classic example of the limits of economic language as morally descriptive: “Overall, the economic recovery appears to be continuing at a moderate pace, albeit at a rate that is both uneven across sectors and frustratingly slow from the perspective of millions of unemployed and underemployed workers.” Frustratingly slow—how about going bat nuts with fear over not being able to make your mortgage payment and losing your home? Tell it to workers who must contend with stagnant wage rates and sharply rising gas and food costs as better jobs and therefore consumer demand move offshore. Bernanke takes low wages to be reassuring news on what he sees as the all-important inflation front: “subdued unit labor costs should remain a restraining influence on inflation.”
At home we are experiencing a social tsunami with the disappearance of a middle-class workforce of stakeholders who were assumed by observers as varied as Thomas Jefferson and Alexis de Tocqueville to be the very bedrock of America’s experiment in freedom. Many with jobs are struggling desperately to get by as the average workweek and pay scales fall, and countless workers find themselves settling for rewards well below their skill sets. Even those slim pickings are denied to the unemployed. Bernanke concedes: “Particularly concerning is the very high level of long-term unemployment—nearly half of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months.”