Appearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, offered an aggressive defense of the central bank’s role in the future supervision of the financial sector. “Stripping the Federal Reserve of supervisory authorities in the light of the recent crisis would be a grave mistake,” he said.
The Fed chief previously blamed the housing bubble that ignited the current recession on “regulatory failure.” Government oversight, he argued last month, simply hadn’t been sufficient, so the United States needed more of it.
“We’ve learned from the crisis,” said Bernanke now, that “large complex financial firms that pose a threat to the stability of the financial system need strong consolidated supervision.” That supervision can only be safe in the hands of the Federal Reserve, because of its — wait for it — “substantial knowledge of financial markets, payments systems, economics and a wide range of areas other than just bank supervision.”
This is the same Federal Reserve that, by Bernanke’s own admission, deepened the Great Depression of the 1930s; repeatedly, through a policy of low interest rates, inflated booms and their worsened their busts; and in recent years worked in conjunction with the so-called government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to encourage American homeownership. The result of this latest policy has been a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Yet Bernanke believes that he and his bank are best equipped to prevent it from happening again. Indeed, he doesn’t understand why, “in the face of a crisis that was so complex and covered so many markets and institutions, you would want to take out of the regulatory system the one institution that has the full breadth and range of those skills to address those issues.”
Why? Because you did it, sir!