December 16, 2009
TIME Names United States Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke 2009 Person of the Year
TIME has named United States Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke the 2009 Person of the Year.
TIME's Person of the Year issue has the first full, on-the-record print interview with Bernanke since he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
IN A SERIES OF THREE INTERVIEWS, BERNANKE TELLS TIME:
• On the financial crisis:
"We came very, very close to a depression...The markets were in anaphylactic shock. I'm not happy with where we are, but it's a lot better than where we could be...Of course there were things we could have done better, but this was a perfect storm."
• On unemployment:
"The additional steps aren't as obvious or clear as the ones we've already taken. It's an enormous problem. There aren't easy solutions."
• On questions about his handling of Lehman, AIG and Bear Stearns:
"It's the price of success: people start to think you're omnipotent. We say we didn't have the authority, and it's 'Oh, you're the Fed. You could've come up with something.'"
• Bernanke tells TIME that major financial crises generally cost nations 5% to 20% of their national output. This panic seems likely to cost the U.S. a fraction of 1%. "How much would you pay to avoid a second Depression?" Bernanke asks. "I mean, this is a pretty good return on investment."
• On his background:
"I'm not one of those people who look at this as some kind of video game. I come from Main Street, from a small town that's really depressed. This is all very real to me."
• On banker pay:
"I think that bankers ought to recognize that the government and the taxpayer saved the financial system from utter collapse last year. And in recognizing that, I would think that bankers ought to look in the mirror and decide that perhaps there should be some more restraint in how much they pay themselves, given what the government and the taxpayer did to protect the system."