Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to Occupy Wall Street protesters: I’m as frustrated as you are about the economy.
Yes, the chairman of the Fed, at a press conference on Wednesday, said he can relate to people who can’t find a job.
“I’m dissatisfied with the economy — unemployment is far too high,” said Bernanke after the Federal Reserve, after its latest meeting, reduced its estimate of U.S. economic growth for the coming two years. It now foresees slower growth of 2.5 to 2.9 percent next year, and 3.0 to 3.5 percent in 2013, with the unemployment rate above 7.8 percent two years from now.
No, Bernanke can’t relate to those — in the Occupy Wall Street ranks or otherwise — who believe he helped to save the financial system so that fat cat bankers could keep their mansions.
“What we were doing was trying to protect the financial system in order to prevent a serious collapse of both the financial system and the American economy,” said Bernanke. “We needed to take those steps; if we hadn’t taken them the consequences would have been dire.”
Why all the complaints about the Fed then?
Bernanke blames it on misunderstanding about the motives of the central bank.
“Our motives were strictly in doing what’s in the interest of the broad public, and I believe our efforts to stabilize the financial system, which ultimately proved successful, were very much in the interest of the broad public,” he said.
Bernanke did not indicate whether he has seen the Occupy Wall Street signs denigrating the top 1 percent of income earners, but he did say that income inequality has been increasing for the past 30 years. The best way to address this issue is indirectly, he said, by providing a friendly financial backdrop so that businesses create more jobs, giving “people the chance to earn income, gain experience and to ultimately earn more.”
Ron Scherer is a staff writer for the Christian Science Monitor.