Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke praised the new Dodd-Frank financial regulation legislation and offered a frank appraisal of his mistakes since 2006 in September 2, 2010 testimony before the Congressional Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.
It should be noted that September 15, 2008 (just next week) marks the two-year anniversary of the bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers. NY Times columnist Sewell Chan notes that the Lehman failure was the “nadir”, or lowest, moment of the financial crisis.
“The Dodd-Frank legislation gives the Federal Reserve Bank oversight over the largest financial institutions, including those that are not banks (such as American International Group, or “AIG” – JHM). It gave the Fed a prominent role in the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a body of regulators with the power to seize and break up a systemically important company if it threatens economic stability. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would manage that [breakup] process, known as resolution.” writes Mr. Chan.
Mr. Bernanke recounted his errors, indicating that he was wrong in 2007 when declaring that the subprime mortgage crisis could be contained and would not infect nor destabilize other parts of the financial system. Mr. Bernanke denied allegations that the Federal Reserve bank was at least partly responsible for the housing price bubble by keeping interest rates too low during the 2002-2004 period. An implication of Mr. Chan’s summary of Mr. Bernanke’s testimony before Congress appears to be that Mr. Bernanke now believes that trying try to identify a “bubble” in the economy early enough is part of the Fed’s charter. If such a “bubble” could be identified early enough to justify Fed action, the Fed could decide to increase interest rates so as to slow down the growth of the bubble.
Ideas for Action: Few of us have the resources and knowledge available to Mr. Bernanke. However, starting to keep a family budget, carefully monitoring your spending, and creating a savings plan for both retirement and “rainy days” are among the prudent steps that we all can take to keep financial problems from becoming too big to handle.