Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Ben Bernanke

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank Ben Bernanke The 56-year-old chairman of the Fed is TIME's 2009 Person of the Year Photographs by Dan Winters for TIME
Dan Winters for TIME

U.S. Monetary Policy and the Man
In the last year and a half, as the U.S. struggled through its worst financial crisis in over 70 years, the Federal Reserve, under the leadership of Ben Bernanke, conjured up trillions of new dollars and blasted them into the economy. The Fed engineered massive public rescues of failing private companies and ratcheted down interest rates to zero. It jump-started stalled credit markets in everything from car loans to corporate bonds and provided loans to mutual funds, hedge funds, foreign banks, investment banks, manufacturers, insurers and other borrowers who had never dreamed of Fed cash. The moves generally transformed the staid arena of central banking into a stage for desperate improvisation. Bernanke not only reshaped U.S. monetary policy; he led an effort to save the world.

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