Senator Bunning blasts Bernanke at Senate hearing

Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) blasted Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who was giving the semiannual monetary policy report before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today. His comments were the sharpest I heard throughout the hearing. The hearing is expected to be brief in order to make time for a later joint hearing with Bernanke, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson, and SEC Chairman Cox before the same committee. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is the chair.

He read a prepared statement that is on his website:

As Prepared For Delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know we have a lot of ground to cover today, but I want to say a few things on the topic of this hearing and of the next.

First, on monetary policy, I am deeply concerned about what the Fed has done in the last year and in the last decade. Chairman Greenspan’s easy money the late nineties and then following the tech bust inflated the housing bubble and created the mess we are in today. Chairman Bernanke’s easy money in the last year has undermined the dollar and sent oil to new record highs every few days, and almost doubling since the rate cuts started. Inflation is here and it is hurting average Americans.

Second, the Fed is asking for more power. But the Fed has proven they can not be trusted with the power they have. They get it wrong, do not use it, or stretch it further than it was ever supposed to go. As I said a moment ago, their monetary policy is a leading cause of the mess we are in. As regulators, it took them until yesterday to use power we gave them in 1994 to regulate all mortgage lenders. And they stretched their authority to buy 29 billion dollars of Bear Stearns assets so J.P. Morgan could buy Bear at a steep discount.

Now the Fed wants to be the systemic risk regulator. But the Fed is the systemic risk. Giving the Fed more power is like giving the neighborhood kid who broke your window playing baseball in the street a bigger bat and thinking that will fix the problem. I am not going to go along with that and will use all my powers as a Senator to stop any new powers going to the Fed. Instead, we should give them less to do so they can do it right, either by taking away their monetary policy responsibility or by requiring them to focus only on inflation.

Third and finally, since I expect we will try to get right to questions in the next hearing, let me say a few words about the G.S.E. bailout plan. When I picked up my newspaper yesterday, I thought I woke up in France. But no, it turns out socialism is alive and well in America. The Treasury Secretary is asking for a blank check to buy as much Fannie and Freddie debt or equity as he wants. The Fed’s purchase of Bear Stearns’ assets was amateur socialism compared to this.

And for this unprecedented intervention in the markets what assurances do we get that it will not happen again? None. We are in the process of passing a stronger regulator for the G.S.E.s, and that is important, but it allows them to continue in the current form. If they really do fail, should we let them go back to what they were doing before?

I will close with this question Mr. Chairman. Given what the Fed and Treasury did with Bear Stearns, and given what we are talking about here today, I have to wonder what the next government intervention in private enterprise will be. More importantly, where does it stop?

Bunning Senate Website

Very strong words and right on target. Other Senators should take notes.

About 

Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.