Mr. Bernanke, of course, has just finished eight tumultuous years as chairman of the Federal Reserve. He was sworn in as Fed chairman in early 2006 unaware that fissures were opening in the foundations of the U.S. economy and financial system.
Two years later, he was rescuer-in-chief during the worst financial crisis in 75 years. His mantra: Whatever it takes. As Glenn Hutchins, vice chair of the Brookings board, put it at the recent Hutchins Center inaugural event: “Despite the massive deleveraging of the last few years, we are still deeply in debt to Ben Bernanke.”
In the past few years, Mr. Bernanke has been presiding over an historic experiment in monetary policy – more than five years of zero interest rates (so far) and trillions of dollars in bond-buying, a controversial approach aimed at restoring growth to the American economy.
Ben Bernanke won’t have to sit through any more meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee or deliver the Fed’s semi-annual testimony to an occasionally hostile Congress or listen to complaints from emerging-market central bankers when central bankers gather in Basel, Switzerland. He won’t have to check the computer screen to see what’s been happening in Asian markets when he gets up every morning.
He will, instead, have time to reflect on what just happened. “ I was kind of like if you’re in a car wreck. You’re mostly involved in trying to avoid going off the bridge. And then later on you say, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” he said here recently.
Mr. Bernanke will be sitting down the hall from scholars in Brookings Economic Studies program. We’re looking forward to helping Mr. Bernanke with the book he plans to write, and to getting his advice as we work to improve public understanding of fiscal and monetary policy and improve the quality and effectiveness of those policies.