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Off-Balance Sheet: Questions I'd Like to Ask Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke


He's always talking. So, what about talking to me?


Relax, it's only money.

Here in the 'Ville we like to keep things smart, but we also love to laugh. All work and no know how it goes. With that in mind we proudly introduce The "Off-Balance Sheet," a place where Minyans can experience humorous takes on the world of finance, personal stories from our Professors and Minyans and all the other stuff that makes life worth living. So take a break from the flickering ticks and dive in.

In January, I submitted a list of questions to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. I waited as he did things like testify before the Senate Budget Committee, try to talk down the pound with the Exchequer of the Exchange, and avert a Yuan crisis with the Chinese Central Bank, paying absolutely no attention to the deadline I was facing.

A few weeks ago, someone from the Public Affairs Office at the Fed called. Ah, so Chairman Bernanke finally found some time in his "busy" schedule to talk. No such luck-the woman on the other end of the line informed me that the Chairman, as a matter of policy, does not grant interviews. Oh well. That just meant I'd have to go with either my Plan B, C, or D interviewees-Tony Blair, George W. Bush, or French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who were waiting patiently by their phones for my call.

Anyway, I spoke with my main man T-Dogg over in London (we're close like that; he calls me J-Ro) but left disappointed with the boilerplate answers he had for me. I hooked up with G.W. a few days later over at his place (props, Laura for the bangin' lasagna!), but again, I didn't think there was very much meat to the interview. As far as my chat with de Villepin, well, let's just say he considered our interview less of an interview and more of a "date" of sorts-which, truth be told, made me (and his handlers), highly uncomfortable.

So, I was left holding the bag-well, not really an actual bag, but a folder with a bunch of questions I wanted Big Ben to answer. And unanswered they shall remain. But, just as people love hearing unreleased demos from The Who's early days or seeing New Yorker cartoons that never ran, I present to you, the Minyanville community, my questions for Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Shalom Bernanke:

  • Given the correlation between consumer spending increases and gasoline prices, are you concerned that the decline in gasoline (prices at the pump are nearly 26% lower over the past six months) has the potential to leave monetary policy still too accommodative?

  • Why does the Fed place so much emphasis on the Phillips curve? Wouldn't it be better to focus on Randy Johnson's curve? Or Jason Isringhausen's slider?

  • Given the scenario where we have inflation in things we need (Healthcare, Education, etc.), and deflation in things we want (Consumer Electronics, Clothing), is monetary policy really capable of balancing that dichotomy?

  • Did your beard itch as it was growing in? And, if so, how long did it take for the irritation to subside?

  • You have long been known as a proponent of inflation-targeting (the announcement of a quantitative target for inflation), but since assuming the role of Fed Chairman we haven't heard much about it. Do you intend to continue shifting the framework of Fed decision-making toward an explicit inflation-targeted approach?

  • Your wife is a Spanish teacher. Will you be delivering any of your policy speeches en español, hombre?

  • Are you jealous of your predecessor, Alan Greenspan, being that "Greenspan" is so much easier for the average American to pronounce than "Bernanke"?

  • You graduated summa cum laude from Harvard with a degree in Economics, got a PhD in Economics from MIT, taught Economics at Stanford Business School, was chairman of the Department of Economics at Princeton, and have written three textbooks on macroeconomics. What makes you think you're qualified to run the Federal Reserve?
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