Feature

Honoring Bernanke’s legacy

Let us now give thanks for Ben Bernanke.

David IgnatiusThe Washington Post

Let us now give thanks for Ben Bernanke, said David Ignatius. Since the Senate this week approved Janet Yellen to take over as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, he’s heading into history, and I think he’ll “go down as the most radical innovator in the Fed’s history—and one of the most successful.” His tenure has not been without controversy, of course. After the 2008 financial crisis, “Bernanke showered the financial system with money as if he were hosing down a fire”: Between 2007 and 2013, the Fed’s balance sheet “nearly quadrupled” from $900 billion to $3.5 trillion. His asset-purchasing program, known as quantitative easing, has been harshly criticized as a bailout of the Wall Street wealthy. But Bernanke’s willingness to experiment and take risks paid off for the whole country. We’ve seen gross domestic product grow in 16 of the last 17 quarters and unemployment drop from 10 percent to 7 percent. Yellen’s challenge now “will be to dismantle safely the structure that he so artfully constructed,” without spiking interest rates and triggering another financial meltdown. That won’t be easy, but as the postmortems for Bernanke’s tenure roll in, “even the skeptics should grant that the country was lucky to have him when the crisis hit.”

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