Do Bernanke And Obama Talk To Each Other?

Bernanke Gives Upbeat Assessment On Economy

Chairman Bernanke predicted today that the recession would end in 2009.  Some of his upbeat, optimistic comments included:

“If actions taken by the administration, the Congress and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability — and only if that is the case, in my view — there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery”.

“I would anticipate some stabilization in the housing market going forward.”

“I do believe that once the economy begins to recover, we will see improvement in the financial market.”

The Big Question

The really big question is, was the President listening to him?

The Bloomberg report that follows is really tough to reconcile with Bernanke’s comments earlier in the day.  Do these guys talk to each other?  There does not appear to be a consistent message or plan for dealing with the greatest economic chaos since the 1930’s.

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama will tell the public tonight the “day of reckoning has arrived,” and that pulling the U.S. out of a recession will mean sacrificing “some worthy priorities” the nation can no longer afford.

“We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election,” Obama will say in his first address to a joint session of Congress, according to excerpts released by the White House.

“The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit,” he will say

Obama is seeking to convince lawmakers and voters that his plans to revive growth will succeed while cautioning that the recovery will take time. The president has spent his first month in office focused on three initiatives — a $787 billion stimulus bill, a bank-rescue plan and an effort to limit home foreclosures — while warning of economic “catastrophe” if the government doesn’t take aggressive action.

With all the warnings about the severity of the economic crisis, Obama now must look for ways to boost public optimism, analysts and economists say.

“It’s a real balancing act,” said Stuart Rothenberg, a Washington-based political analyst. “The president’s got to walk this fine line between reminding people of the difficult situation we’re in and emphasizing the inevitable victory.”

“It’s all about confidence,” said Bruce Foerster, a former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. managing director and now president of South Beach Capital Markets in Miami. “That’s the heart of what is going on. We have problems but they are being exacerbated because there’s no confidence in the capital markets.”

I applaud the President’s honesty on the challenges we face and I wish him the best of luck. The stock market, however, has lately been registering a resounding vote of no confidence in the actions taken by Washington.  The nation is searching for a thoughtful, workable plan to solve the economic problems we face.  A coherent and unified message from Washington would be good for starters.

Predicting an end to the recession in 2009 while concurrently describing the economic situation as “catastrophic” and a “day of reckoning” does not project a coherent message.   But it could have been worse – at least they didn’t let Tim Geithner say anything.

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