MarketWatch: Bernanke Meets the Public

MarketWatch notices that Ben Bernanke has become far more public in recent weeks:

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke discussed the economy with average Americans on Sunday, saying the current financial crisis could be even more virulent than the Great Depression.

“A lot of things happened, a lot came together, [and] created probably the worst financial crisis, certainly since the Great Depression and possibly even including the Great Depression,” Bernanke said at the start of a town-hall meeting in Kansas City.

Bernanke defended the Fed’s extraordinary moves, which have included slashing interest rates to zero, pumping billions of dollars to keep credit markets open, and buying Treasurys and mortgage debt to keep long-term interest rates low.

“I was not going to be the Federal Reserve chairman who presided over the second Great Depression,” he said.

The event is being televised over three nights, beginning Monday, by U.S. public television network PBS. Members of the public, screened by PBS, were able to ask questions.

Many questioners expressed unhappiness with the “too big to fail” doctrine. One asked when Bernanke would get around to firing the leadership of banks that had to accept government assistance.

Another participant said the only thing that was clear to him in the whole crisis was that his small business was “too small to save.”

At first, Bernanke tried to argue that the Fed moved to save big banks to protect the global economy, but by the end, Bernanke simply agreed that “too-big-to-fail has got to go.”

This is the first time that a Fed Chairman has had answered questions on the record from the public.

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