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Bernanke hits back at critics of bond-buying plan
Question of the Day
By contrast, China and other emerging economies face the challenge of keeping growth robust, without igniting inflation, he said. By keeping their currencies artificially weak, China and other emerging economies are causing problems for themselves and for the stability of the world economy, Mr. Bernanke said.
His comments come days after a U.S. congressional report called on Washington to do more to force China to increase the value of its currency. On Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry countered that that constitutes interference in Beijing’s internal affairs and accused the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission of having a “Cold War mentality” and of harboring a grudge against China.
Bernanke argued that the Fed’s Treasury bond purchases are needed to promote faster job creation and reduce the risk that very low inflation could turn into deflation. Deflation is a prolonged and destabilizing drop in prices of goods and services, wages and the values of assets like stocks or homes.
“We don’t want to overpromise, the effects are … meaningful but moderate,” Bernanke said of the Fed’s bond-buying program during a panel discussion after his speech. “To the extent that we can get help from the private sector, from other policies, I think that’s all very constructive, so I hope that we can.”
He also called on Congress to step up.
“A fiscal program that combines near-term measures to enhance growth with strong confidence-inducing steps to reduce longer-term structural [budget] deficits would be an important complement to the policies of the Federal Reserve,” he said.
Mr. Bernanke has previously warned that the economy is too fragile for the Congress to slash spending or boost taxes, even as he has made the case that lawmakers and the White House must craft a credible plan to reduce trillion-dollar plus budget deficits over the long term.
But the Fed chief amplified that warning. He is doing so as Republicans in Congress — coming off big wins in the midterm elections — are using their clout to push for less government spending and more fiscal discipline.
Republicans are upset with Mr. Bernanke because they think the Fed is overstepping its bounds with the bond-buying program. They argue that the Fed is printing money to pay for the government’s massive debt.
Republican Rep. Mike Pence and Sen. Bob Corker, want the Fed’s mission to be revamped.
Put on the defensive, Mr. Bernanke felt compelled this week to meet privately with lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee to defend the Fed’s program. A stream of Mr. Bernanke’s colleagues have also been out making public appearances to back the Fed’s action in recent days.
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