Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Barney Frank spoke at length on growing income inequality, then, half an hour into the hearing, asked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for his thoughts. Mr. Bernanke began to reply when Mr. Frank sheepishly interrupted, �I apologize, you haven�t given your opening statement yet. If this had been my first hearing, I could explain that mistake a little bit easier. No good explanation comes to mind.�It's not a mild-mannered Congress working with the Fed these days. How bad is this? Let me tick off two past Congressmen who probably were harder on the Fed than Rep. Frank has been so far.
Mr. Frank also praised Mr. Bernanke for devoting several pages of his testimony to consumer protection issues. His predecessor, Alan Greenspan, had little interest in consumer protection issues, much less mentioning them in his Humphrey-Hawkins testimony. �To me it is very clear this is not Uncle Alan�s semi-annual report,� Mr. Frank said.
- Wright Patman was a progressive from the Depression era. He introduced perhaps ten bills in his time in Congress to repeal the Federal Reserve Act. He thought the Fed was too powerful, exclaiming once that the Fed could veto everything the president does.
- Henry Gonzalez was chair in the 1980s and 1990s, overseeing the Fed during the savings and loan crisis, Mexican debt, etc. He felt the Fed was too secretive and pushed for taping and immediate release of all meeting minutes. If there is anyone Barney Frank would emulate as an overseer of the Fed, it's Gonzalez. But given the more open proceedings of the Fed, Frank may have more trouble seeking places to agitate as Gonzalez did.