Bernanke's the Man (of the Year)?

Time has decided: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is 2009's Person of the Year. I like to think of 2009 as the The Year of the "What the [word my editor deleted]?!" as moral hazard issues swamped the market. For a year like that, I guess Bernanke is indeed the Person.

Bernanke's often credited with saving the day in the face of economic crisis, but his policies draw plenty of criticism, too. Many citizens view the "rescues" he orchestrated for bailed-out banks as a big fat benefit for the bankers themselves. Executives at taxpayer-funded businesses such as AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) , Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , and Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) didn't help their case by loudly grousing about government limits on their salaries and bonuses. You'd think they honestly couldn't understand why citizens might balk at footing the bill for their lavish compensation packages.

In addition, the Fed's exit strategy from its interventions remains unclear, and its decision to print more and more money in hopes of pumping up our economy could send inflation soaring. Many critics even lay a significant share of bubble blame at the Fed's doorstep to begin with. In that light, by naming Bernanke "Person of the Year," Time seems to have invited a whole bushel of controversy and questions.

I rarely agree with economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, but his post on the issue today was both funny and a little creepy. "Be afraid, be very afraid" of Bernanke's honor, he wrote, citing the so-called Time "cover curse." Apparently, being named Person of the Year can often prove, uh, a bit of a contrarian indicator.

What do you think of Time's choice? Can you think of a better recipient? Sound off in the comment boxes below.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.


Read/Post Comments (20) | Recommend This Article (15)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 2:37 PM, neskolf wrote:

    "...by naming Bernanke "Person of the Year," Time seems to have invited a whole bushel of controversy and questions."

    Alyce,

    The quote above is what strikes at the heart of the issue. Bernanke is high-profile and controversial (particularly in terms of the public split in opinion on him and his policies), just the sort of figure who will stir plenty of free advertising for Time magazine in the form of public debate over their selection. Call me cynical, but I believe the selection of Bernanke was based more in marketing than merit.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 4:16 PM, mcmost1 wrote:

    more like Time's <b>Front Man of the Year</b>

    not sure if that's the scariest part of it with the fact that Pelosi was a runner up... oh wait Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize, I forgot that the world took over the name Wonderland after MJ crossed over.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 4:27 PM, globalsailor wrote:

    The man of the year is supposed to be a popularity contest. The award is given to the person who made the most news. That's Bernanke. However, if I say so myself he's a pretty poor central banker.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 4:29 PM, Fool wrote:

    what a joke

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 4:55 PM, BMFPitt wrote:

    Can you think of a better recipient?

    If I handed you a phone book, probably everyone in there will have done better for this country than him. Even if there's a serial killer in there, I'd have to think about it.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 5:24 PM, nightowljmg wrote:

    <I>

    Many citizens view the "rescues" he orchestrated for bailed-out banks as a big fat benefit for the bankers themselves. Executives at taxpayer-funded businesses such as AIG (NYSE: AIG), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), and Citigroup (NYSE: C) didn't help their case by loudly grousing about government limits on their salaries and bonuses. You'd think they honestly couldn't understand why citizens might balk at footing the bill for their lavish compensation packages.

    </I>

    <P>

    Citizens are so outraged at banks operating in 'business-as-usual' fashion, featuring lavish executive compensation. Yet these same citizens have no criticism for the corrupt Democrat Congress who voted to give bankers money to continue 'business-as-usual.' A significant part of the American public is so stupid it makes my head want to explode.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 5:30 PM, yardpup01 wrote:

    The Man of the Year is the person who, "for better or worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year." It's not necessarily an honor, just a recognition of influence. Hitler and Stalin were both Men of the Year in 1938 adn 1939 respectively, and you can't suggest that that was meant as an honor.

    Bernanke certainly has affected events of the past year more than any other person, possibly for years to come. Seems like a sound choice to me.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 6:46 PM, Alwayzwrong wrote:

    Just as long as I don't have to hear that Tiger Woods was the 1st choice, and they had to come up with a replacement in a hurry.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 6:47 PM, Alwayzwrong wrote:

    I don't car who they chose, as long as it isn't leaked later that Tiger Woods was their first choice.

    Anything that gets Tiger off the front page.....Please no more Tiger Woods. I can't take it.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 7:02 PM, MAURIZIO400 wrote:

    i would not so much center my reservations around the of the year bit, it's the man part that m most uncomfortable with...

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 7:07 PM, MAURIZIO400 wrote:

    ...i mean since seeing Will Smith & tommy lee movies...i have developed an increasing weird feeling about the humanity of some of thees caracters with distinctly not human logic thought process.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 9:53 PM, bo123 wrote:

    I agree that it is a marketing tool for Time. I suppose its simply tradition too. They gotta pick somebody don't they? .

    Actually, I'm surprised they didn't pick our President or Congress. Maybe next year when the deficit is a scillion quadrillion and change...

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 10:00 PM, jerryguru69 wrote:

    Oy.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 10:24 PM, goalie37 wrote:

    While all of us may feel uneasy at the choices Bernanke made, we need to ask, "What would I have done as Fed chief?" With the public simultaneously demanding that the government save them and that the government stay out of their lives, nothing that he could have done would have made the people happy. Congress would be no help, since they were only concerned with being the sound bite of the day as they asked some supposedly probing question during hearings. The White House would be no help, as talking down the economy would be detrimental and talking up the economy would be delusional. Instead, the world's central bankers did what they felt would stop the bleeding. Did it work? Will it cause inflation and a myriad of other problems down the line? That is something for us Fools to debate. But in the same situation, I don't know that I would have been up to the task.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2009, at 11:46 PM, DownEscalator wrote:

    I love how many people comment (and write...) about this without realizing what "Man of the Year" is. It's the person who MADE the most news; it's absolutely NOT a statement of morality or political support.

    It's hard to argue with Bernanke, since he has been the figurehead of the economic "recovery."

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2009, at 8:19 AM, Bonsaiscrooge wrote:

    Why not Madoff Person of the Year? I guess Bernanke did the same on a greater scale...

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2009, at 8:24 AM, Fool wrote:

    This is the magazine that named hitler person of the year and Stalin person of the year twice

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2009, at 10:45 AM, miteycasey wrote:

    Madoff would have been better.

    Omama could have fit the bill as well.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2009, at 11:09 AM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    As one wag (I forget who) said the other day, "There must have been a payoff here. Did Time Warner secretly become a bank holding company or something?"

  • Report this Comment On January 10, 2010, at 11:47 PM, Fool wrote:

    The man of the year because we haven't had a total economic meltdown - yet? Man of the year or the boy with his finger in the dike? Head of the Fed, which is quite arguably complicit in creating this crisis, and arguably has much too much power over the economy, does a whole slew of things outside even its overly broad charter and against much of its own principles and we declare the head of it Man of the Year? Or rather Time does. I have become more aware of why I don't read it. That a lot of people would take this seriously really does imply that many people are sheep who can't or won't think for themselves or who think that a respectable publication must have content from people wiser and or better at thinking than they.

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