Ben Bernanke,the chairman of the Federal Reserve,is on a publicity campaign with a message: the central bank is here to help,and it is not as mysterious or menacing as people might think.
In a departure from the central banks tradition as an aloof and secretive temple of economic policy,Bernanke has plunged into the public spotlight to an extent that none of his predecessors would have contemplated.
He has given a television interview to 60 Minutes on CBS; held what amounted to a televised news conference; and written newspaper commentaries to explain the Feds efforts to fight the financial crisis.
When a small-business owner asked Bernanke why the Fed helped rescue big banks while short-changing small companies,Bernanke answered that he had decided to hold my nose because he was afraid the entire financial system would collapse. Im as disgusted by it as you are, he told the audience of 190 people. Nothing made me more angry than having to intervene,particularly in a few cases where companies took wild bets.
It was a far cry from what any other Fed chairman has been willing to do,but it was just the latest example of Bernankes attempt to communicate directly with the public.
Last week,Bernanke published a commentary in The Wall Street Journal,then testified before three separate Congressional committees and presided over a public Fed meeting to announce new regulations of credit card practices.