WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says he doesn't need to be surrounded by yes men – or women.
Bernanke said Thursday there has been "plenty of disagreement" among the members of the Federal Reserve's main policymaking group, whose power to influence interest rates for all kinds of loans is important to Americans' pocketbooks.
And there may be more disagreement than usual these days, he acknowledged, as Fed policymakers struggle to find the best way to help the economy recover from the worst recession since the 1930s.
But that's OK, the Fed chief said. Different views can eventually lead to better decisions, he added.
Bernanke's remarks came in response to a question during a town-hall style meeting with teachers on at the Fed's downtown headquarters.
"It's good to have different views," he said.
Building consensus is an important part of Bernanke's job. Especially now.
There are divisions within the Fed over how to pump up the economy and lower unemployment.
Some Fed officials have clashed over how much help would come from one likely next step – buying more government debt. Others have different thoughts about the size of any new aid programs. And yet others are skeptical about providing any extra help.
The Fed policymakers delivered a strong signal last week at their meeting that they are prepared to act if the economy weakened. High on the list of unconventional tools is buying more government debt, known as quantitative easing.
The goal is to force down rates on consumer and businesses loans even further to get Americans to boost their spending. Doing so, would help the economy.
Bernanke took a jab at the media when asked about its role in Americans' flagging confidence in the economy.
He said teachers, students and others should be a "little skeptical" about what the media report. The media tend to "make good times too hot and bad times too cold," Bernanke said. That's why it is so critical to get information from a variety of sources, he said.
Bernanke, who spent much of his professional life in academia, used to teach economics at Princeton University as well as other institutions. He's also married to a teacher.