THE BLOG

It's Not Bernanke, It's Congress

08/29/2011 05:09 pm ET | Updated Oct 27, 2011

Peter Goodman, the Business Editor of the Huffington Post is mistaken -- inadvertently. He wrote an essay on August 26, (Bernanke Provides No Relief) about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech given earlier the same day at a meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

At first glance, the gist of Mr. Goodman's essay seems to be that Bernanke claims the Fed has more arrows in its quiver to aid our economy, but for reasons unacceptable to Mr. Goodman, Bernanke has chosen not to use them for the time being.

On the one hand, Goodman seems to be saying that Bernanke should do this, but then if he did, that would set off the "lunatic fringe" of the Republican Party, Goodman acknowledges. On the other hand, Bernanke really ought to do that, but if he did, that would contradict the Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman.

The bottom line of Mr. Goodman's essay seems to be that he is deeply disappointed in the position Mr. Bernanke has taken -- whatever it is.

Disappointment, discouragement and even anger (myself included) seem to be the theme of many essayists and commentators on the Huffington Post's "Business," "Political" and some of its other pages. There is something misguided about all of this.

I interpret Mr. Bernanke's position differently. In fact, I interpret our entire country's position differently. Let us back up and review recent events.

On August 2, Congress passed and the President signed a bill averting immediate financial annihilation. To avoid it, Congress kicked the can down the road -- again.

On August 5 -- two days later -- Standard & Poor's downgraded the government's debt, saying, "The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed."

That is what Bernanke faced as he sat down to draft his speech for the upcoming Fed meeting due on the 26th. What was he supposed to say?

I would go further than the S&P statement. The situation is not "becoming" some vague "thing" that is "less than" what a certain rating agency "previously believed." Congress IS unstable, ineffective and unpredictable about fundamental issues of governance.

In a roundabout diplomatic way, that is what Bernanke is saying. Given the reality of Congress, what is Bernanke supposed to do? In the meantime, what does he say?

It is as if Bernanke were an invited guest giving a speech in the cocktail lounge of the British ship Titanic about highly technical issues within the jurisdiction and competence of the Federal Reserve Bank 1,000 nautical miles away back in the U.S.A.

While Bernanke is speaking, the Titanic is heading straight for the iceberg. Everyone on board -- absolutely everyone -- sees the berg coming from ten miles away. The guests in the lounge nervously order more drinks. None of them -- certainly not Bernanke -- has a clue what the captain of the ship is going to do. It is all guesswork and wishful thinking.

As Bernanke shuffles his papers at the podium trying to keep up appearances, the captain on the bridge is jabbering while his lieutenants stand mute at attention. No one is actually listening to the captain and he certainly is not listening to anyone else, either. Everyone on board from top to bottom without exception knows precisely what the captain is doing. He is walking in circles.

Poor Ben Bernanke is trying to give a speech about technical issues concerning the Federal Reserve Bank down below in the cocktail lounge. What is he supposed to say?

The way I see it, the United States Congress is our sovereign, or to say it more accurately, we the People are the sovereign. However, we have made Congress the captain of our ship with absolute authority to make laws -- or not make them.

The way our 18th century Constitution is written, there is no requirement for the members of Congress to legislate. They can sit on their hands if they want to. We, the People, have no mechanism to compel the members of Congress to do anything. All we can do is get upset at one another and sometimes say mean, stupid things -- and have another drink as the berg approaches.

I think our state of affairs is nonsense. We the People are standing around allowing Congress to run us onto the rocks. We are stupid. We should stop being stupid and solve the problem. We should fix the situation.

I propose the Kirkwood Amendment to the Constitution that would -- if and when necessary -- compel Congress to legislate.

With regard to debating this proposal, I will take-on all comers. If you can improve a word or sentence of the Kirkwood Amendment, please say so in writing. I am all ears. If you have an entirely different idea that you think is better, tell me specifically what it is. Again, I am anxious to hear your superior proposal.

However, do not write me and declare that we cannot do it; that we cannot compel Congress to act when they refuse to do so. Do not tell me all is lost and doomed. I am not interested in hearing that.

Let us cut out all these expressions of frustration, discouragement and especially anger. Let us be specific and constructive.

Finally, I challenge you, stand up like a man or a woman and use your real name. At least the members of Congress do that. I find the use of fictitious names an embarrassment to our citizenship. Imagine our soldiers going into combat feeling embarrassed about who they are. Imagine them sneaking sidewise trying to be undetected so that they might avoid the battle. The Huffington Post is not a porno site and the Constitution is not something to be ashamed of. Use your name.

Daniel Hough Jones
Kirkwood, MO