Ben Bernanke is sounding too conservative for the left.
John B. Judis at the New Republic is afraid that Bernanke wants to destroy Medicare and Social Security.
Echoing the charges of economic conservatives and Wall Streeters like investment banker Peter Peterson, Bernanke took aim against what these folks call “entitlements,” but which are known popularly to be social security and Medicare. Republicans can be expected to cite his comments in the current debate over the Democratic health care reform bill.
Why would someone seeking to be confirmed by a Democratic majority go out of his way to promote starkly Republican concerns?
The relevant words:
MR. BERNANKE: And on the spending side again, you know, Willie Sutton robbed banks “because that’s where the money is,” as he put it. The money in this case is in entitlements. Those are the programs which are growing. At the rate we’re going in about 15 years the entire federal budget will be entitlements and interest and there won’t be any money left over for defense or any of the other activities. So clearly we’re facing a very difficult structural problem in that we have an aging society and rising health care costs, and the government has very substantial obligations.
I’m not in any way advocating unfair treatment of the elderly who have, you know, have worked all their lives and certainly deserve our support and help, but if there are ways to restructure or strengthen these programs that reduce costs, I think that’s extraordinarily important for us to try to achieve.
In a post titled “Bernanke’s Plan for Unemployment: Do Nothing,” Matt Yglesias writes,
But he didn’t do either. Instead, as David Dayen recounts, he just said we should cut Social Security benefits to reduce the long-term deficit even though this clearly had nothing one way or another to do with the current labor market situation:
“No second stimulus, no jobs bill, no public investment to deal with the worst hiring crisis since the Depression, no relief for a jobless recovery, but yes to cutting people’s meager Social Security benefit and their health care in their old age.
And this is what he’s saying when he WANTS his job back. What will it be if he gets it?”
Hmm…if Bernanke is enraging these guys, maybe I should rethink my anti-Bernanke stance.
But really it just highlights the bipartisan nature of anti-Bernanke sentiment. There are folks on the left and the right who think that he’s not doing enough with the money supply to spur recovery and job creation. People who think he’s creating too much inflation are mostly, but not wholly, confined to the right. And the group that thinks that he played a significant role in regulatory failure and unfairly helped Wall Street is truly a bipartisan collection.