09/26/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Talk About the Renomination of Ben Bernanke

Here's a good template from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for how Senate Democrats might want to talk about Ben Bernanke:

As a result of the greed, irresponsibility and illegal behavior of Wall Street our country has experienced the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. Mr. Bernanke was head of the Fed and the nation's chief economist as this crisis, driven by reckless speculation, developed. Tragically, like the rest of the Bush administration, he was asleep at the wheel during this period and did nothing to move our financial system onto safer grounds.

As the middle class of this country continues to shrink, we need a chairman of the Federal Reserve who is more concerned about expanding the productive economy - increasing decent-paying jobs for all Americans - than continuing to fan the flames of Wall Street greed and outrageous compensation packages.

Saying nothing about another Democratic president helping preserve two decades of uninterrupted Republican Party rule at the Fed, consider the nonpartisan argument. Reappointing one of the key people A) who fell asleep at the regulatory wheel in the lead up to the financial meltdown B) who responded to the meltdown by handing over trillions of no-strings-attached taxpayer dollars to his bank industry friends and C) who has refused to let the public even know who is getting taxpayer bailout money is abominable. The idea that he showed some kind of "brilliance" or "smarts" in throwing trillions of dollars at the banking industry is positively absurd -- as is the idea that his scheme has miraculously saved the economy (it ain't a shock that when you shovel trillions of dollars at banks, they will report temporary short-term profits -- and those profits don't mean anything is saved for the long-term).

Now, I know the standard sycophant's response: Forget the details, forget the substance -- because Paul Krugman and some other economists with shiny awards and fancy plaques who originally cheered on Bernanke's bailouts say Bernanke is great, then Obama is teh awesome for reappointing Bernanke. It's a pathetic rejoinder - and even calling it that is an insult to pathetic rejoinders. Those who offer that rationale as reason to cheer on Bernanke's renomination are acknowledging the severely debilitating limitations of their own cognition. Simply saying "well, if X person says its great, then it's great" is not an argument -- it's an admission of individual ignorance/laziness in that the speaker is saying they can't actually muster the tiny amount of intelligence it requires to make a minimally substantive argument.

The bottom line is clear: In a nation of 300 million people, there are obviously at least a few better qualified souls out there who have been saying for years that Bernanke-style laissez faire would bring on a disaster. That is to say, there are at least a few people with better credentials to run the Fed than the Bush-appointed Bernanke -- and certainly there are many better qualified to fulfill President Obama's promise of "change we can believe in."

ADDENDUM: To those regurgitating the talking point that Bernanke is responsible for "avoiding a depression," here's a challenge: either substantiate that argument with facts explaining how he had no role in creating the very crisis he supposedly averted and how his policies uniquely helped stabilize the economy for the long haul. Or try -- and I know it's hard -- to muster the intelligence to overcome sockpuppetry. That is, try to take a moment and think for yourself -- and not simply parrot back what you are hearing from above.

In short, just because the media and Obama say Bernanke was responsible for "avoiding a depression," don't simply accept that as truth. Try asking A) what Bernanke's role was in creating the very real potential for depression in the first place and B) whether his policies to "avoid" a depression were ultimately stupid, mishandled and larcenous - and could be improved on with a new chairperson.

Simply accepting talking points from your favored politicians or media stars is yet another sign of sycophancy/cultism -- and a lack of cognition. In this case, it's the same as regurgitating the Republican talking point that said because there was no terrorist attack after 9/11, George W. Bush was responsible for doing a great job of protecting America after 9/11 -- and never asking A) what Bush did to allow 9/11 to happen or B) how Bush's policies nonetheless endangered us after 9/11. Giving Bernanke the credit for "saving" us, without asking what he did to endanger us in the first place or what his policies have done to further endanger us after the crisis -- and giving him that credit just because someone on your television told you to -- is a pretty solid definition of cultism. And it is exactly the kind of power/celebrity-worshiping genuflection the most cynical spinners, politicians and pundits in Washington, D.C. expect from a lobotomized public.