Saturday, February 2, 2008

Jim Bunning, the lone vote against Bernanke

Jim Bunning, the lone vote against Bernanke

“You play a pretty good fiddle boy but give the devil his due.”

-Charlie Daniels

It would be easy for me to avoid saying something positive about Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning. We differ on many issues. We rarely support the same candidates. His prickly personality does not make him a media darling.

Having said that, I would be remiss if I did not give Senator Bunning his due.

On one of the important decisions facing the country, Bunning was right and every other United States Senator was wrong.

In 2006, Bunning was the only Senator to vote against Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

There were 20 members of the Senate Banking committee. Only Bunning said no. Bernanke then breezed through the full Senate on a voice vote.

Bunning took some serious heat. He was voted one of the nation’s “Five Worst Senators” by Time Magazine.

I wonder if Time Magazine will allow a recount.

If other Senators had listened to Bunning, we might have avoided a recession.

An economic downturn is the result of many events but the Federal Reserve Board can make it less painful.

The Federal Reserve Board is a risk manager for the nation’s economy.

A fire fighter puts out a fire but a risk manager keeps a fire from starting.

Bernanke hasn’t been a risk manager, he’s been an arsonist.

My high school history teacher said that the Federal Reserve Chairman was more important than the President.

My teacher grasped something that 99 United States Senators did not.

Before entrusting our economy to a Federal Reserve Chairman, the Senate needed to perform due diligence. They needed to make sure we had the best person for the job.

Bernanke’s confirmation “hearings” were a love fest with a minimum of vetting.

Only Bunning noticed that Bernanke had never worked in the private sector. Ben had never met a payroll or earned a return for stockholders. Bernanke only accomplishment had been hanging out at the Princeton faculty club.

Real world economics differ from the textbook models. A great Federal Reserve Chair, Paul Volcker, understood both.

I’m not sure Bernanke understands either.

Bernanke breezed through confirmation hearings and people hooted at Bunning.

I doubt Time Magazine’s editors are laughing at Bunning now. If they are in good spirits, they haven’t checked their stock portfolio lately.

There are hoards of people calling for Bernanke’s head. Even those who suck up to Ben admit that “he made a few mistakes.”

Those “few mistakes” put us in a recession.

If Bernanke had dealt with sub prime mortgages before they became a crisis, we would have avoided a recession.

If Ben had been aggressive in cutting interest rates before the stock market went into free fall, we would have avoided a recession.

If Bernanke had not appeared completely clueless, he would have given the business community confidence. Instead, we got a recession.

Bunning’s fellow Senators don’t want to admit they screwed up. They want to cover their tracks by handing out $150 billion in tax rebates.

Our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be paying for the ill advised rebates. We are currently paying for Bernanke’s mistakes.

Since the United States Senate gave Bernanke a 14 year term, we can’t get rid of Ben until 2020. I wonder what the economy will look like then?

Going against the crowd is a lonely position.

In 1964, Oregon Senator Wayne Morse was one of two Senators who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that authorized America’s further involvement in the Vietnam War.

I don’t know if Time listed its “five worst senators” in 1964 but Morse would have been on their list. Four years later, the people of Oregon voted him out of office.

It took awhile but history has given Wayne Morse his due.

I’m giving Senator Jim Bunning his due now.

Don McNay is Chairman of the Board for McNay Settlement Group and author of Winner, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery. You can write to him at or read his award winning column at

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