When the U.S. economy melted down on former President Bush’s watch, it was a sobering moment.
Unfortunately, Ben Bernanke was not willing to sober up.
Instead of rejecting the fantasy that any financial institution could or should be imagined as “too big to fail,” the chairman of the Federal Reserve determined that behemoth banks needed massive infusions of federal money so that they could grow even bigger.
Working with the Bush economic team that had rewarded the wealthiest Americans with tax cuts, traded away whole American industries and encourage speculation that would make a blackjack dealer wince, Bernanke’s steered trillions of dollars in what were essentially free-money loans and other taxpayer-funded benefits to the flabbiest financial institutions in the world.
And if there was any doubt about where the Fed chair stood in the struggle between Wall Street and Main Street, Bernanke refused to reveal to American citizens or their elected representatives the names of the billionaire boys clubs that pocketed this welfare for the rich.
Bernanke was, and is, the face of everything that is wrong with the crony-capitalism model of “regulation” developed by the Fed under its previous chair, Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan.
President Barack Obama, who was elected on a promise to “change” the way Washington and Wall Street did business, instead hired Fed insiders like Tim Geithner as his economic aides and then nominated Bernanke to serve a second term as Fed chair.
The president’s decision was ill-thought in the extreme.
Luckily, presidents are not kings. They can be checked and balanced by the Congress.
And Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the only independent members of Congress, has done just that.
On Wednesday, Sanders took advantage of the arcane rules of the Senate — which allow individual members to delay confirmation of a presidential selection — placed a hold on the Bernanke nomination.
Sanders acted for exactly the right reason.
“The American people overwhelmingly voted last year for a change in our national priorities to put the interests of ordinary people ahead of the greed of Wall Street and the wealthy few,” Sanders explained. “What the American people did not bargain for was another four years for one of the key architects of the Bush economy.”