Politics

Ben Bernanke, Enemy of Health Care Reform?

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Doh!

It's tough to say for sure whether Fed chief Ben Bernanke's reconfirmation is really in serious trouble, but the fact that there's any doubt—and that folks like Paul Krugman are deeming it necessary to step in with grumbling defenses of his necessity—isn't the most promising sign for his future. It's still likely, however, that this is more of a thematic outburst intended to bolster the Democrats' impending banker beatdown rather a genuine move to oust the guy. But as Noam Schieber points out, even if that's true, the Obama administration's struggle to get Bernanke through is likely to have additional ramifications for the Democratic agenda:

The White House… believes it's really important to confirm Bernanke. But the implications of this are unappetizing to say the least. For one thing, if you're going to knock heads together to get Bernanke through the Senate next week, it'll make it a lot tougher to subsequently knock a bunch of heads together for health care. (The Senate would presumably have to pass some fixes to its original bill, which the House would insist on before passing it.) Which is to say, I think there's a chance Bernanke kills whatever slim hope we have of getting health care done.

The larger point here is that the health care reform effort has already consumed more than its allotted share of legislative and political resources, and at this point, it's starting to seriously threaten other agenda items. I'll have more to say on this topic in a column later today, but the gist is this: Given that compromise measures (like breaking up the bill) would take additional weeks of effort—weeks which wouldn't even be certain to produce a payoff—it's rather unlikely at this point that any of the novel solutions currently making the rounds are likely to produce outcomes of any substance.