It seems we're stuck with Bernanke and his low interest rates

Ben Bernanke picture

I’m not particularly interested in "social issues," or the size of government, or even whether taxes are too high.

At least, I’m not interested when such matters are debated by politicians running for office.

Consequently, I’ve paid scant attention to what the Republican presidential candidates have said on these subjects.

I am, however, interested in CD rates, so I’ve listened closely to what they’ve said about U.S. monetary policy and its chief architect, Ben Bernanke.

(The Federal Reserve chairman opens a two-day meeting of the bank's top policy-setting committee today, at which it is expected to come up with new ways to drive long-term interest rates even lower.)

Rick Perry has called Bernanke’s money-printing "almost treasonous."

Ron Paul has "suggested very strongly that the Federal Reserve System and all the members have been counterfeiters for a long time."

(At gatherings of the faithful, he even sponsors a "Dump Ben Bernanke" dunk tank where you can try to knock a Bernanke look-alike into a vat of water.)

Mitt Romney has indicated he wouldn’t reappoint him.

Newt Gingrich has said: "I’d fire him tomorrow."

But is Gingrich merely engaging in a rhetorical flourish? Can anyone actually "fire" the Fed chairman?

The Federal Reserve Act does give the president authority to remove any Fed Board member "for cause."

There’s very little learning on the meaning of this term when applied to the chairman, but it doesn’t seem to cover policy disagreements.

It appears to require something more in the way of dereliction of duty.

Unfortunately, the chairman has demonstrated remarkable diligence in pursuing his wrongheaded vision of the Fed’s dual mandate -- to the chagrin of savers.

He could be impeached by the House, and convicted and removed from office by the Senate, under the Constitution, but only for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Charles A. Lindberg Sr., the father of the "Lone Eagle," then a Minnesota congressman, tried to do this to the entire Federal Reserve Board in 1917. It went nowhere.

Bernanke’s monetary policies, crafted to penalize those who save, although demonstrating imprudence, or even recklessness, don’t appear to me to rise to the level of impeachable crime.

More fruitful, perhaps, would be a reorganization of the Fed itself, eliminating the position of chairman, along with the dual mandate to keep inflation in check and maximize employment.

But that would require legislation, something now politically impossible.

It would also require serious analysis and debate, something we don’t do during a presidential contest.

Sadly, I’ve concluded we’re stuck until his chairmanship ends in January 2014.

In other words, they’ll be with us "for an extended period."

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