If you want insight into what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke really means behind the carefully crafted politico-speak, you talk to Brian Wesbury—so AdvisorOne did just that on Thursday. The chief economist with First Trust Advisors in Wheaton, Ill., is a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and served as chief economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress in the mid-1990s.
The Wall Street Journal ranked Wesbury (left) as the nation’s No. 1 U.S. economic forecaster in 2001 and USA Today ranked him among the nation’s top 10 forecasters in 2004. In case you’re throwing an event, Speakers Platform named him a Top 5 Keynote Speaker in 2011.
Wesbury, an eternal optimist, published his latest book, “It’s Not As Bad As You Think,” in November 2009, arguably during the market “valley” to end all market valleys.
Q: Were there any surprises from Bernanke’s press conference on Wednesday, or was it more about the novelty of having a Fed chairman answer questions in that setting?
A: I try to remind people that this press conference was about 20 years in the making. Politicians have been calling for more transparency at the Fed for some time, so it wasn’t like Ben Bernanke suddenly thought of this. I know [Rep.] Ron Paul, and [Sen.] Jim Bunning before him, have been calling for it for a while. That said; the Fed has taken extraordinary measures—through quantitative easing and growing the federal government’s balance sheet—to deal with all that’s happening in the economy. There are signs this is coming to an end, obviously. And some of the regional Fed presidents have raised their voices in disagreement (or at least concern) over the central bank’s actions.
Q: Is it common for regional presidents to criticize the chairman?
A: Traditionally, no; they usually like to run a tight ship and speak with more of a unified voice. That was certainly the case with Paul Volcker, which eventually got him into trouble with dissenting votes. But Bernanke seems to relish debate and dissent. It’s more of an academic environment, which fits with his background.
In light of the surge in oil and gold, among other things, which is at least in part tied to monetary policy, “crazy things” have been happening, which I know is a very technical term.