Fight Ben Bernanke While You Still Can


The U.S. Senate is rebelling against the seemingly inevitable reappointment of Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke. With Time magazine's person of the year facing the end of his term at the end of this month, the Senate is under some time pressure to confirm the grossly incompetent Fed chief. But the trends are all pointing in the wrong direction. Today Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and Barbara Boxer (D-California) joined fellow Democrats Byron Dorgan (North Dakota) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon), along with Independent Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Republicans Jim Bunning (Kentucky), Jim DeMint (South Carolina) and David Vitter (Louisiana), announcing that they will oppose Bernanke's reappointment.

This raises cloture problems for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who was hoping to close the vote on the controversial central banker this week but now has put the confirmation off indefinitely. And if the anti-Bernanke trend continues to catch on, it could endanger even Bernanke's ability to win a straight-up popular vote.

Under Fed rules, Bernanke would not be able to stay in his seat if he is not confirmed before January 31st. The post would be temporarily filled by vice-chairman Donald Kohn, whose term runs through June.

President Obama "has confidence" in Bernanke, and I still would not bet against his confirmation. But the backlash against Bernanke in particular and the Fed in general is getting bigger, not smaller; the political climate is, if you haven't noticed, pretty unpredictable these days; and Bernanke's failures have been grave, deep and numerous enough that what seemed impossible just a few weeks ago is looking less than totally impossible today.

The Bernanke Confirmation option at Intrade is unchanged on this latest news.