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La tragedia de Ben Bernanke

BERKELEY – Resulta difícil leer el nuevo libro de memorias del expresidente de la Reserva Federal de EE. UU. Ben Bernanke (The Courage to Act), sin verlo como una tragedia. Es la historia de un hombre que tal vez haya sido la persona mejor preparada del mundo para el trabajo del que debía ocuparse, pero que se vio rápidamente superado por los desafíos y nunca logró recuperar el terreno perdido.

Es un gran mérito de Bernanke que el shock de 2007-2008 no haya dado lugar a otra Gran Depresión, pero su respuesta en el período subsiguiente resultó inesperadamente decepcionante. En 2000, Bernanke sostuvo que un banco central con voluntad suficiente «siempre» podría –al menos, en el mediano plazo– recuperar la plena prosperidad a través de la expansión cuantitativa. Si un banco central imprime dinero y compra activos financieros a escala suficiente, la gente comenzará a aumentar su gasto. Incluso si la gente cree que solo una fracción de la expansión cuantitativa será permanente, e incluso si el incentivo a gastar es bajo, el banco central puede volver a poner en marcha la economía.

Al final, sin embargo, Bernanke no logró su cometido. Aun cuando la Fed y muchos otros bancos centrales imprimieron mucho más dinero del que los economistas hubieran creído necesario para contrarrestar el impacto de la crisis financiera, aún no se ha restablecido la plena prosperidad. Bernanke quintuplicó la base monetaria estadounidense: de 800 mil millones de USD a 4 billones de USD, pero no fue suficiente. Luego le faltó coraje para dar el siguiente salto: más que duplicar la base monetaria, para llevarla a 9 billones de USD. En sus últimos años en el cargo, el accionar de Bernanke quedó reducido a suplicar en vano al Congreso que instituyera la expansión fiscal.

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