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Well that was a couple hours I'll never get back.
Instead of a productive discussion on the economy, the Q&A portion of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s Wednesday testimony devolved into a bunch of small proxy wars waged over whatever the individual congressman cared about.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, took a break from campaigning to do what he does best: complain about the Fed. He assailed Bernanke about “lying” to the American people about inflation, waving a silver coin around, eventually yelling “Why can't people put this in a mattress!?” before finally going off on a tirade about how great gold and silver are.
Paul's diatribe was clearly a campaign move, and an effective one given the number of his fans that took to Twitter to boast his most-recent triumph over the evil Fed.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., successfully redirected negative talk of the Dodd-Frank Act to other macroeconomic issues like jobs before rounding it back to how awesome his bill is.
The talk of Dodd-Frank crested with an argument among several committee members about why Dodd-Frank was actually called Dodd-Frank. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., stuck it to claims of bipartisanism by saying, “Dodd-Frank is so bipartisan, it was called Dodd-Frank.” A quip followed by some accidental commentary by Chairman Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., (who clearly forgot to turn his mic off) who made remarks such as “He’s so funny,” while his giggles echoed clearly through the room.
If you need further proof that the committee members only cared about the session long enough to say their piece, look no further than the chairs that emptied continually throughout the session. Barney Frank, for instance, left so quickly he wasn’t even able to defend the name of his own bill. As CSPAN panned the room at the end of the session, I was amazed that I was still watching given the number of committee members who clearly seemed to think Bernanke’s testimony wasn’t all that important anyway.
The real amazement, however, came in the form of what seemed like a complete paradigm shift. At Bernanke’s last testimony, he was verbally beaten by angry members of the committee who thought the Federal Reserve’s white paper on housing stepped on their toes. At this testimony, several members demanded Bernanke tell them what to do.
Questions of “what do you recommend?” came up so much, that I wondered if I had dreamed the last Q&A session. They came up so often — especially on the topic of housing — I somewhat wanted the Fed chairman to stand up and yell, “DID YOU EVEN READ THE WHITE PAPER I SUBMITTED?!”
He did not.
Instead, he patiently repeated all of the suggestions he made weeks ago to the same people that criticized him for initially making them while, I assume, painfully resisting the urge to tell them all to start doing their jobs.
And while he resisted saying those exact words, he did make it excruciatingly obvious that the committee members were asking him to do things that were beyond the power of his position.
Next time, I propose the members of the committee appear before the Fed to answer questions. That would be more effective, and more interesting to watch on television.