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

View from the Fed
Bernanke concedes that he failed to anticipate how fragile the American economy had become. He did not anticipate that fear about a $1 trillion subprime mess could paralyze a $60 trillion global economy, that the overnight lending markets that got banks and corporations through the day could seize up overnight. He doesn't share his predecessor Alan Greenspan's ideological faith that markets always knew best, but he was surprised how spectacularly financial firms misjudged risk in their own portfolios. "None of use appreciated what a jury-rigged thing the financial system had become," he says.

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