The Trinity is Complete
“We Need a Housing Bubble” Krugman got a Nobel in Economics. “Let’s Ramp Up a Murderous, Useless War” Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize. So what do we give Helicopter Ben Bernanke, who has squandered much of whatever capital we had left after the housing bubble burst by pushing interest rates down to zero, and guaranteed (just wait for it) the worst depression in American history? Make him Time Person of the Year!
This is really quite a deft move by the establishment. How could Congress have the audacity to vote to undermine the Time Person of the Year, of all people?!
As can be seen from the Time puff piece written for the occasion, the Fed has gotten cultivating a certain image down to an art. As I’ve written:
There is something disarming about a technocrat. While it is easy to dismiss elected officials as blustering panderers, there is something comforting in the image of the specialist civil servant toiling away with industry and equanimity. We tend to imagine such an employee of the state poring over statistics as an ancient Greek priest might examine entrails, and carefully allocating resources like an Egyptian vizier allocating slaves. The technocrat seems benign, crucially important, and above the fray.
This is certainly the image that has been cultivated by Federal Reserve chairmen. One remembers Alan Greenspan, with his prominent braincase and thick glasses, uttering technical jargon just arcane enough to assure the markets that all was well with the “Greenspan put.” And we are regularly presented with Ben Bernanke, the bearded sage, comfortingly citing statistics that show how government remedies are working their way through the economy (however egregiously wrong he may be).
And see how the lead paragraph of the Time peace fits that image perfectly:
A bald man with a gray beard and tired eyes is sitting in his oversize Washington office, talking about the economy. He doesn’t have a commanding presence. He isn’t a mesmerizing speaker. He has none of the look-at-me swagger or listen-to-me charisma so common among men with oversize Washington offices. His arguments aren’t partisan or ideological; they’re methodical, grounded in data and the latest academic literature. When he doesn’t know something, he doesn’t bluster or bluff. He’s professorial, which makes sense, because he spent most of his career as a professor.
And I see another trend. In Newsweek’s profile of Paul Krugman, they wrote:
Krugman says he found himself in the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, especially the “Foundation” series”. It was nerds saving civilization, quants who had a theory of society, people writing equations on a blackboard, saying, ‘See, unless you follow this formula, the empire will fail and be followed by a thousand years of barbarism.’”
And now, Time writes of Bernanke:
He is not, in other words, a typical Beltway power broker. He’s shy. He doesn’t do the D.C. dinner-party circuit; he prefers to eat at home with his wife, who still makes him do the dishes and take out the trash. Then they do crosswords or read. Because Ben Bernanke is a nerd.
He just happens to be the most powerful nerd on the planet.
Well, as we all reap what Krugman and Bernanke has sowed for us in the coming years, it’s going to give the phrase, “Revenge of the Nerds” a fresh, terrible meaning