WASHINGTON, January 20 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today he senses growing opposition to a second term for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
“I sense that many Democrats see the Massachusetts election as a wake-up call,” Sanders said. “There is a growing understanding that our economy is in severe distress, a greater appreciation that people are disgusted with the never-ending greed on Wall Street, and a better recognition that we need a new direction at the Fed.
“People do not want another term for the man whose major job as Fed chairman was to protect the safety and soundness of our financial system but instead was asleep at the switch,” he added. “I am confident that more and more senators understand that we need a new Fed and a new Wall Street and will oppose Bernanke’s confirmation.”
Sanders on December 5 placed a hold on Bernanke’s nomination. The term of the central bank chief, first appointed by President George W. Bush, runs out on January 31.
The Federal Reserve has four main responsibilities: to conduct monetary policy in a way that leads to maximum employment and stable prices; to maintain the safety and soundness of financial institutions; to contain systemic risk in financial markets; and to protect consumers against deceptive and unfair financial products.
Since Bernanke took over as Fed chairman in 2006, unemployment has more than doubled and, today, 17.3 percent of the American workforce is either unemployed or underemployed.
Not since the Great Depression has the financial system been as unsafe, unsound, and unstable as it has been during Mr. Bernanke's tenure. More than 140 banks have failed since he became chairman.
Under Bernanke's watch, the value of risky derivatives held at our nation's top commercial banks grew from $110 trillion to more than $290 trillion, 95 percent of which are concentrated in just five financial institutions.
Bernanke failed to prevent banks from issuing deceptive and unfair financial products to consumers. Under his leadership, mortgage lenders were allowed to issue predatory loans they knew consumers could not afford to repay. This risky practice was allowed to continue long after the FBI warned in 2004 of an "epidemic" in mortgage fraud.
After the financial crisis hit, Bernanke's response was to provide trillions of dollars in virtually zero-interest loans and other taxpayer assistance to some of the largest financial institutions in the world. Adding insult to injury, Bernanke refused to tell the American people the names of the institutions that received this handout or the terms involved.
As head of the central bank since 2006, Bernanke could have demanded that Wall Street provide adequate credit to small and medium-sized businesses to create decent-paying jobs in a productive economy, but he did not.
He could have insisted that large bailed-out banks end the usurious practice of charging interest rates of 30 percent or more on credit cards, but he did not.
He could have broken up too-big-to-fail financial institutions that took Federal Reserve assistance, but he did not.
He could have revealed which banks took more than $2 trillion in taxpayer-backed secret loans, but he did not.