Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is Ben Bernanke's Confirmation Threatened?

Short answer - I highly doubt it.   Part of Friday's selloff was the fear of speculators that their Drug Dealer in Chief ("he drops paper dollars from helicopters faster than a speeding bullet") might possibly not be confirmed by the Senate.  Despite all the hand wringing I'd put the odds at 5% or less that Time's Person of the Year won't sit there and continue to monetize all the bad decisions of Congress, and the country at large.  Even if by some 1 in 20 chance something goes awry, who will be sitting in the wings?  Mr. Kohn - who is no different than Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke.  [Sep 12, 2009: Federal Reserve's Kohn: We Plan to Keep Throwing Kerosene on the Fire]  That is the part people do not get - this is an institutional issue and they will just keep putting in figure heads who all do the same deeds... every so often "they" screw up and put in a Paul Volcker type who is willing to cause pain to the American people in the near term so as to do the right thing in the long run - but that is the exception, not the rule.

So while the knee jerk reaction of a Bernanke loss by the speculator class would be outright panic (the screeching on CNBC as the babies lose their pacifiers and security blanket should be able to crack windows nationwide) the reality is the chances of any real change happening at the top of the Fed (i.e a return to Volcker) would border on slim to none - at least from this perch. 

p.s. whatever happens, Bernanke will be with us for a WHOLE decade - he has a 14 year term that lasts til 2020.

I was bemused to see this quote in the Wall Street Journal Friday by a Senator from Oregon - it seems like the message being shouted by a few of the "rogue bloggers" (hand raised) has finally hit the mainstream.  i.e. why do we celebrate a man who brought the matches to the arson scene, just because he pulled a few burnt victims out of the house?

"He did a good job with the fire hose this last year, but he certainly also–in his roles over the last eight years—he helped create the circumstances that set the house on fire," said Oregon Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Bernanke foe.

Remember this Fed head job is apparently not about being accurate or having any prescience in economic forecasts.. it's not about the fact you said Fannie and Freddie are just fine in early 2008.. it's not about the fact you did not believe housing prices could fall nationwide; it's not about the fact you denied a recession as we were heading full bore into one; it's not about the fact your institution's regulation was a farce (yet you want more regulatory power!), it's not about the fact you promised us that you would not bailout speculators at a Jackson Hole, Wyoming speech in 2007. 

It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve--nor would it be appropriate--to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions. - Ben Bernanke, August 2007.

It's not about having a good track record is it?  It's all about your big firehose Ben -, and as long as you make all our problems go away with more paper money creation - you are Wall Street's hero. *We heart Ben* 

[5 minute video - email readers will need to come to site to view]

But other than that, he nailed it....(heckuva job Brownie 2.0???)

So never fear speculators of the country / world - the US saver will continue to be thrown under the bus so that you can borrow at nearly zilch and distort prices of all things, in an orgy of excess as we create a fake "wealth effect" to hide the structural problems of our damaged economy.  It's called paper printing prosperity [May 19, 2009: Paper Printing Prosperity Defined] and it seems to be the only playbook we have.  Any other path requires discipline, long term thinking, and sacrifice - not to mention competent leadership.... that is soooooo "Greatest Generation", who has time for it?  Just give me my morphine drip and make it all go away!

As investors, we have to be very aware of the celebration that will erupt on Wall Street when it becomes clear their man will be confirmed (please note Goldman Sachs will be notified by Senate staff approximately 24 hours before you will) - we can expect a joyous reaction to free and easy money for an "extended period of time".  (if Jim Cramer cries live on air, don't be alarmed - they are tears of joy) Bears - you have been put on alert...

The latest from the Wall Street Journal:
  • White House officials and a leading Republican senator on Sunday expressed confidence that Ben Bernanke would be confirmed for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman, despite expressions of opposition from a growing number of lawmakers.
  • Mr. Bernanke, a former Bush administration official whose term expires on Jan. 31, has come under fire from some lawmakers over the Fed's handling of the economic crisis. While many officials and economists view Mr. Bernanke as having played a key role in staving off another economic depression, he has become a lightning rod for public anger over the bailout of the banking system and the country's continued high unemployment rate.
  • Three White House officials said on Sunday morning talk shows that Mr. Bernanke had enough votes for another term.
  • The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said on Sunday that he believed that Mr. Bernanke had enough votes to remain Fed chairman. "He's going to have bipartisan support in the Senate and I would anticipate he'd be confirmed." Mr. McConnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press".
  • Because four senators have put what's known as a "hold" on the nomination, it will take 60 votes to bring the Bernanke confirmation to the floor for a vote. Once that hurdle is cleared, it would take a majority to confirm him.

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