Business, Economics and Jobs

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke offers no plan for stimulus


Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke appears during a hearing on The Wall Street Reform Act on July 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. Bernanke will make a much-anticipated speech on August 26, 2011 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.



U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has spoken.

The headline: don't expect the Fed to come to the rescue any time soon. 

In his closely-watched remarks this morning in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bernanke offered no plan for immediate economic stimulus.

Instead, Bernanke said the U.S. economy — the world's largest — is recovering, though slowly.

He was also bullish on the long-term prospects:

“With respect to longer-run prospects, however, my own view is more optimistic,” Bernanke said. “The growth fundamentals of the United States do not appear to have been permanently altered by the shocks of the past four years.”

The short-term, however, is another matter:

"Although we expect a moderate recovery to continue and indeed to strengthen over time, the Committee has marked down its outlook for the likely pace of growth over coming quarters."

Here's the speech in its entirety.

Bernanke's remarks come at a politically-sensitive time.

Fed monetary policy — in particular, the quantitative easing policy that Bernanke laid out last year in Jackson Hole — has become an issue in the Republican primary campaign, with Texas governor Rick Perry using the word "treasonous" to describe it, while making uncomfortable threats against the Fed chief.

Bernanke did not shy away from criticism of the current state of Washington politics and, instead, offered this smackdown in Fedspeak:

The country would be well served by a better process for making fiscal decisions. The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well, and similar events in the future could, over time, seriously jeopardize the willingness of investors around the world to hold U.S. financial assets or to make direct investments in job-creating U.S. businesses. Although details would have to be negotiated, fiscal policymakers could consider developing a more effective process that sets clear and transparent budget goals, together with budget mechanisms to establish the credibility of those goals. Of course, formal budget goals and mechanisms do not replace the need for fiscal policymakers to make the difficult choices that are needed to put the country's fiscal house in order, which means that public understanding of and support for the goals of fiscal policy are crucial.

Bernanke's speech coincided with the latest disappointing news on the U.S. economy.

The Commerce Department said that economic growth in the second quarter was slightly weaker than first reported. It revised downward U.S. gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy, to 1 percent. It had first put that figure at 1.3 percent.