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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama hints Ben Bernanke’s time is up as Fed chairman

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Federal Reserve

President Obama hinted Monday night that Ben Bernanke will not be reappointed to a third term as Federal Reserve chairman when his current term ends in January.

Bernanke has “already stayed” at the Fed “a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to,” Obama told PBS’ Charlie Rose at the end of a lengthy interview primarily focused on national security issues that  aired Monday night.

When asked by Rose if he would reappoint Bernanke if Bernanke sought a third term, Obama avoided a direct answer and said Bernanke has been an “outstanding partner along with the White House in helping us recover much stronger than, for example, our European partners from what could have been an economic crisis of epic proportions.”

Obama’s comments come amid heightened speculation that Bernanke plans to announce his retirement before the end of his term. Bernanke’s announcement that he would miss the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole retreat in August was taken as an indication that he might be leaving his post, as was his joking aside in his commencement address to Princeton graduates in June that he had contacted the administration about the status of his leave from the university, where he had taught before joining the Fed.

President George W. Bush first appointed Bernanke as Fed chairman in 2006. Obama reappointed him in 2010, with the official end of the recession already past but with unemployment still near 10 percent. Bernanke’s second term has been defined by the Fed’s novel operations to boost employment, including the large-scale asset purchase programs known as QE2 and QE3 as well as other strategies.

Obama’s remarks about Bernanke took place the night before the Federal Open Market Committee, headed by Bernanke, is scheduled to meet in Washington for a two-day conference to set monetary policy. Fed watchers have debated whether the meeting will mark the beginning of the Fed’s slowdown of its bond purchases through QE3.

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