There's an increasing - if still unlikely - chance that enough rogue Senate Democrats will finally join with rank-and-file Senate Republicans to vote down Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's renomination. The fact that there is even this chance is a testament to the parts of the progressive movement and courageous progressive senators like Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Byron Dorgan, Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold that have been willing to call for Bernanke to be rejected.
Bernanke has the entire political and financial Establishment - ie. the corporatocracy - behind him, from the Obama administration to both parties' congressional leadership to the Wall Street banks. But the argument against him, which I summed up in a recent newspaper column, is about as powerful as it gets: Reappointing someone who fell down on the regulatory job and then doled out trillions of no-strings-attached taxpayer dollars to clean up his mess would create a political moral hazard that tells all other regulators they can do the same exact thing and expect to retain their jobs.
Unfortunately, the truism in that argument is not a trump card. The Obama administration, rather than using all of its political capital to actually fix the economy and deliver genuine "change," is now fighting tooth and nail to make sure Bernanke - a Bush appointee - is reappointed. Underscoring the sordid corporatist politics behind this nomination is a Politico dispatch noting that White House "strategy on the Bernanke confirmation was being led by former Enron lobbyist Linda Robertson, who is viewed as an effective advocate for the banking chief on Capitol Hill."
To understand what a political and policy mistake this is, consider this statement over the weekend from Sanders:
"Democrats and President Obama are putting their credibility on the line if they think they can criticize Wall Street and big banks one day and then turn around and support Bernanke, Wall Street's candidate, the next day," Sanders said. "That doesn't pass the smell test."
"The issue for Democrats is whether they will allow Republicans to pretend to be the populist, anti-Wall Street party, or whether they will have the courage to stand up to Wall Street and bring in a Fed chairman who will represent the needs of working families rather than huge financial institutions," Sanders added.
"The vote on whether to confirm Bernanke will be one of the most important decisions senators will make during the Obama administration," Sanders said.
That about sums it up. Call your senator today and tell him/her to vote against Bernanke. Then sign the petition against Bernanke's reappointment.