Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Ben Bernanke

Highs: Bernanke entered 2010 largely being praised for his efforts to stem the financial crisis. In late January, in what had initially looked to be a close vote — some faulted Bernanke for not foreseeing the credit crunch — the Federal Reserve Chairman was reconfirmed to a second term by a 70-to-30 tally. Investors cheered the reappointment, and stocks rose. Treasury bonds, too, rose for most of the year, showing that the vast majority of investors approved of Bernanke's policies. In mid-September, the National Bureau of Economic Research said that the US was no longer in a recession, providing more evidence that Bernanke's policies of maintaining low interest rates and pumping trillions of dollars of government money into the market, through bond purchases and emergency loans, had been successful in reviving the economy.

Lows: Even though the US technically pulled out of recession in 2010, the economic was more sluggish than people expected. Bernanke was late to recognize the problem. In July he said the Fed had no new plans to stimulate growth. In November, backpedaling, Bernanke announced a $600 billion program to boost the economy, saying unemployment was dangerously high. But the program, popularly dubbed QE2, has only gained Bernanke more critics. Sarah Palin has spoken out against it, warning that Bernanke's policies could cause massive inflation. And a web video that said Bernanke, a former Princeton professor, was less savvy about the economy than your average plumber went viral.

Stephen Gandel