Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed is focusing “intently” on job creation and expects inflation to stay in check for the foreseeable future.
Speaking at a rare public forum in front of a military audience, Bernanke recognized that most people feel the recession never ended. He conceded that the 9 percent jobless rate and record numbers of long-term unemployed Americans are serious problems.
“We at the Federal Reserve have been focusing intently on supporting job creation. Supporting job creation is half of our marching orders, so to speak," he said.
The event was part of Bernanke’s effort to explain to the American public his rationale for the central bank’s unprecedented bailouts of financial firms and efforts to spur economic growth, Bloomberg News noted.
The unemployment rate is “painfully high,” with more than two- fifths of unemployed people out of work for longer than six months, Bernanke noted. This is “by far the highest ratio since World War II,” he said. “These problems are very serious, and we at the Federal Reserve have been focusing intently on supporting job creation.”
As Reuters notes , public appearances by a Fed chairman are rare.
“Bernanke's second-ever town-hall meeting -- the last was in July 2009 -- may reflect a desire to counter critics of both political parties. Republicans have focused on attacking the Fed's extensive easy money policies, saying the central bank has failed to revive the economy despite cutting interest rates to near zero and buying $2.3 trillion in bonds. Some have warned the Fed against taking actions best left to fiscal policy makers. Democrats have charged the Fed with implementing policies that benefit Wall Street while disregarding the economic struggles of ordinary Americans. Some argue Fed policymakers should be subject to greater accountability.
In the meantime, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, has been co-leading an investigation into what caused the mortgage and financial meltdowns.
All 50 states have been looking into whether the big banks acted improperly in handling mortgages and foreclosures.
In this Marketplace Morning Report, he says he views the investigation as a part of an overall effort to restore public confidence to the markets, and also says what he thinks of the Occupy Wall Street protesters.