Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sparked a 90-point jump in the Dow Jones industrial average eight days ago by signaling that another big round of bond purchases might be looming. But before buying the fool’s gold that the Fed alone could power a strong economic recovery, review the record of the last few years — including Friday’s news of the lowest labor-force participation rate in more than three decades.
Review, too, the rest of what Mr. Bernanke said on Aug. 31 in a speech at the central bank’s annual retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Restating what has long been all too obvious, the chairman warned that “fiscal policy” at all levels of government “has become an important headwind for the pace of economic growth” — and that “notwithstanding some recent improvement in tax revenues, state and local governments still face tight budget situations and continue to cut real spending and employment.”
The master of understatement added that despite some “positive signs,” including continued price stability, “the economic situation is far from satisfactory.”
Hey, for Mr. Bernanke, “far from satisfactory” is tantamount to “awful.”
Too bad the latter term remains so fitting for our “jobless” recovery.
So don’t get too giddy about how much good another Fed bond-buying spree could do — or over the far-fetched variations on “Happy Days Are Almost Here Again” that Democrats pitched at this week’s convention in Charlotte.
And don’t ignore Chairman Bernanke’s recurring alarms on the need to develop — and eventually enact — a responsible plan to reduce the trillion-dollar deficits that this week pushed our record national debt to a staggering $16 trillion.
While the Fed head cautioned against “a sharp near-term fiscal contraction that could endanger the recovery,” he also warned: “It is critical that fiscal policy makers put in place a credible plan that sets the federal budget on a sustainable trajectory in the medium and longer runs.”
But as pointed out in the editorial above, that critical step will never be taken unless our elected leaders — and the American people who put them in office — make the vexing taxing and spending decisions required to restore a sustainable fiscal course.