AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Now he tells us. On Wednesday Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke referred to the nation's unemployment rate as a "national crisis," an obvious if depressing fact of life to the 25 million Americans who have been unsuccessfully attempting to find full-time employment.
But to finally hear those words from the man George W. Bush and Barack Obama both appointed to lead us out of the great recession is a bracing reminder of how markedly the policies of both those presidents have failed: "We've had close to 10 percent unemployment now for a number of years, and of the people who are unemployed, about 45 percent have been unemployed for six months or more," Bernanke said. "This is unheard of."
But why is Bernanke just now discovering this after having overseen the Fed's purchase of trillions in toxic mortgage-backed securities from the too-big-to-fail banks that sacrificed people's homes in a giant Ponzi scheme? Why did he throw all of that money at the banks without getting anything back in the way of relief for the people the bankers swindled?
The housing meltdown, which has robbed Americans of a considerable portion of their net worth, has led to the continued depressed consumer confidence that is the prime cause of crisis-level unemployment. In another of his too-late-to-matter moments, Bernanke acknowledged that "strong housing policies to help the market recover" would "clearly be very useful," but he failed to suggest any.
Bernanke, along with then-New York Fed President Timothy Geithner, helped implement the Bush strategy of saving the banks in the hope that their rising tide would lift our little boats. That remained the strategy when President Obama rewarded Geithner for having saved AIG and Citigroup by naming him treasury secretary in the incoming government.
With the Geithner appointment, and the even more disturbing selection of Lawrence Summers to be his top economic adviser, Obama sealed his own fate as president. By turning to those disciples of Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, a prime enabler of Wall Street greed, the new president fatally betrayed his promise of hope.