Ben Bernanke Walks the Line

The Fed Chairman balances between calming the markets and bailing them out

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appears before Congress in this file photo from Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, in Washington.

Much of what Ben Bernanke spends his days doing oscillates between the incomprehensibly arcane and the unspeakably dull. Lately, though, the Federal Reserve chairman has a stark, even exciting task at hand. He's been imitating Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life and trying to halt a bank run.

While Stewart's George Bailey had to make do with his powers of persuasion and his honeymoon fund to save the Bailey Building and Loan, Bernanke has the full faith and credit of the U.S. government behind him. The Fed can effectively print U.S. dollars at will. It can even, as Bernanke famously...

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