Greenspan: I'm Still Here

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WASHINGTON: These economic salad days have made Alan Greenspan a soldier in peacetime: The toughest part of his job is convincing the citizenry that no matter how good things look, the inflationary barbarians are never far from the gate. "The potential for accelerating inflation is probably greater than the risk of protracted, excessive weakness in the economy," Greenspan told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday -- despite the ongoing trouble in Asia and economists' reports of a resulting slowdown in the U.S. economy over the past few months.

"There's really no sign that the economy will overheat soon," says TIME business reporter Bernard Baumohl. "But Greenspan has to maintain his role as captain of the economy. If he admits that the economy is on autopilot -- which it is right now -- the Fed loses its relevance." Usually such vocal vigilance from the Fed chairman portends a hike in interest rates. But Baumohl says Greenspan still hopes that a "soft landing" -- in which the U.S. economy, dulled by Asia's recession, "sort of taps its brakes and cools off on its own" -- will allow him to do nothing at all. Greenspan just can't say that on TV.