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Central Bankers under Siege

CHICAGO – Poor Ben Bernanke! As Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board, he has gone further than any other central banker in recent times in attempting to stimulate the economy through monetary policy. He has cut short-term interest rates to the bone. He has adopted innovative new methods of monetary easing. Again and again, he has repeated that, so long as inflationary pressure remains contained, his main concern is the high level of US unemployment. Yet progressive economists chastise him for not doing enough.

What more could they possibly want? Raise the inflation target, they say, and all will be well. Of course, this would be a radical departure for the Fed, which has worked hard to convince the public that it will keep inflation around 2%. That credibility has allowed the Fed to be aggressive: it is difficult to imagine that it could have expanded its balance sheet to the extent that it has if the public thought that it could not be trusted on inflation. So why do these economists want the Fed to sacrifice its hard-won gains?