The Wall Street Journal editorial on 1-28 evaluated The Bernanke Legacy.
In dividing his tenure into three parts, before/ during/ after the financial meltdown, they provide a good assessment of the during phase. An evaluation of the after phase will have to see how the Fed unwinds the gazillions of dollars of quantitative easing.
On the before phase the assessment places much blame for the housing bubble on the Fed in general and Mr. Bernanke in particular. Their comment:
As Fed transcripts show, Mr. Bernanke was the board’s intellectual leader in its decision to cut the fed-funds rate to 1% in June 2003 and keep it there for a year. This was despite a rapidly accelerating economy (3.8% growth in 2004) and soaring commodity and real-estate prices. The Fed’s multiyear policy of negative real interest rates produced a credit mania that led to the housing bubble and bust.
The Fed transcripts also make clear that Mr. Bernanke underestimated the degree of the housing bust and financial contagion, but so did most others. Less forgivable is Mr. Bernanke’s refusal to acknowledge that the Fed made any mistake in the mania years.
I’m putting those comments into my blog now so we can remember it next time someone claims the only blame for the financial fiasco goes to the private sector.