"Poor folks ain't got a chance
Unless they organize.
Which side are you on boy?
Which side are you on?
- Florence Reece (Peter Seeger)
Ben Bernanke's re-appointment as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is in trouble. Liberal senators, such as Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and Barbara Boxer of California, are against him. Conservative senators, like Richard Shelby of Alabama, oppose him too.
What do Boxer, Shelby and Feingold normally have in common? Nothing. You can't find another contested issue where they line up on the same side.
Bernanke is different. It is not about Republican and Democrat.
It is a vote on whether a senator is listening to Wall Street or Main Street.
The vote on Bernanke lets us see which side each senator is on.
Boxer was quoted in the New York Times, saying "It is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed."
It is time, indeed.
Main Street supporters know that Bernanke has to go. The Wall Street crowd wants to keep Ben in the worst way. He is completely their guy.
Just ask the people at Goldman Sachs or AIG.
My biggest disappointment in President Obama, a man I voted for, is that he has consistently sided with Wall Street over Main Street.
Obama has supported each and every bailout, appointed Timothy Geithner to run the Treasury and appointed Dr. Lawrence Summers to whisper in his ear at the White House.
Naturally, Obama is in favor of giving Bernanke another shot. That is what the Wall Street crowd is calling for.
I was vehemently opposed to Bernanke when he was first appointed by President George W. Bush. Outside of opposition by Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Bernanke's Senate confirmation was a love fest and his confirmation was a coronation.
Which led to him presiding over one of the great economic disasters in history.
Nothing in Bernanke's background clued him in to Main Street. He has never met a payroll, never had to get a business loan and spent most of his life hanging in the faculty lounge at Princeton.
It's one thing to write a thesis. It's another to have to live with your decisions, like those of us on Main Street do.
They have a word for people who screw up on Main Street: bankrupt.
They have a word for people who screw up on Wall Street: bailout.
They have a word for people for screw up in Washington: re-appointment.
Thus, Wall Street and Washington is lining up to give Bernanke another shot.
Senator Christopher Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking committee, responded to the opposition in an "inside the beltway" fashion. The New York Times quotes Dodd as saying that a vote against Bernanke would send "the worst signal to the market right now" and could "lead us into an economic tailspin." What kind of economic tailspin? Like that one Bernanke led us into last year? Or the bigger one, the year before that?
Dodd, whose close ties to lobbyists and sweetheart loans from Countrywide is leading to his premature retirement, considered himself a champion of "working people." I guess Dodd defines "working people" as those who work for investment banks.
It makes sense to get rid of Bernanke. You don't rehire a football coach who keeps losing games. Bernanke's term as Federal Reserve Chair is like watching the Cincinnati Bengals for the decade of 1990's. They started in last place and they stayed in last place. At least the Bengals changed coaches. President Obama needs to do the same at the Federal Reserve.
I would love to see a Federal Reserve Chair who was not a product of the Wall Street-Washington alliance -- someone from the heartland, who doesn't do power lunches at the Four Seasons or hang at the Harvard faculty club. Someone who had a real job at least at some point in his (or her) life.
If Warren Buffett was available, he would be my pick. If not Warren, then someone with the same kind of Midwestern values and sensibilities.
Since the upset election of Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts, there has been a lot of talk about populist anger. Washington is just starting to "get" what those of us on Main Street have known for a long time.
People are broke, frustrated and angry and want Washington to do something to help them.
The vote on Bernanke is a litmus test. Senators have a chance to show us whether they will continue to suck up to Wall Street or whether to find someone who is listening to the voice of Main Street.
We will be watching our senators and asking, "What side are you on?"
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is one of the world's leading authorities in helping people deal with "Big Money" issues. McNay is an award winning, syndicated financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. You can read more about Don at www.donmcnay.com. McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983 and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at www.mcnay.com. McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.