Bernanke has had his ups and downs with economic commentators as well as with politicans. Only a week ago it was looking like the same wave of populism that carried Scott Brown's Massachusetts election would swamp the Fed chairman and jeopardize his confirmation. But many also argued Bernanke's reappointment was crucial to market confidence.
It seems the latter view has prevailed: Bernanke was confirmed yesterday by a vote of 70 to 30--"the weakest endorsement ever extended to a chairman," notes Sewell Chan in The New York Times. Critics are mourning the move, while even those neutral or supportive of Bernanke worry about the tasks he faces.
- 'Wasted Opportunity,' grumbles Americablog's Chris Ryan, "to bring the previously discussed (but now missing) change to Washington. Once again, this is why voters think so little of everyone in Congress and the White House."
- Dreadful Development, declares economist Simon Johnson, who briefly suggested New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman take the chairman's spot. He's irritated at the pre-confirmation argument that Bernanke's continued rule was necessary for market confidence: "Here's what markets really care about: credible fiscal policy, sufficiently tough monetary policy, and the extent to which big banks will be allowed to run amok--and then get bailed out again." Bernanke's reappointment, he argues, "solves none of our problems," and suggests there are more bailouts to follow.
- Bernanke Has to Improve Confidence, argues Robert Samuelson. He doesn't think "casting him and the Fed as handmaidens of Wall Street" is a helpful move. "One pillar of confidence is the belief that the Fed can act quickly and decisively in a crisis; arguably, that's what spared us a deeper downturn. But now Congress may curb those powers or so vilify the Fed that it becomes intimidated."
- Bernanke's Hard Work Not Over, agrees Bloomberg's Scott Lanman. In fact, Bernanke's trials may have just begun. Bernanke opposes the trimming of Fed power, but a lot of legislators like the idea.
- Let's Hope the Close Confirmation Sends a Message Left-leaning Kevin Drum at Mother Jones "look[s] forward to a chastened Ben Bernanke coming out strongly in favor of serious financial sector regulation." He's not "taking any bets on it, though"--it's possible the confirmation was close simply because confirmations in general are becoming closer, more tightly-fought affairs.