It seems like only yesterday that Ben Bernanke took over the spot of Federal Reserve chairman from the larger-than-life Alan Greenspan. There was no warm welcome from the markets for Ben, as investors worried that the former professor was ill-equipped for one of the most powerful jobs in the world, and thought it imprudent for the new guy to continue Alan Greenspan's string of interest rate hikes.
But after a brief drop in the late spring of 2006, the markets took back off, climbing more than 20% through September 2007. Of course, that's when the cracks started showing.
The big ouch
The rest of the story we know all too well -- the housing market collapsed; major financial institutions like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers failed, while others like Citigroup
Today (despite the recent rally), banks like Bank of America
And through all of this, Big Ben has been waving his interest rate wand around with the conviction and earth-shaking impact of Dumbledore. Some say this staved off further disaster, while others contend that it did nothing but set us up for future runaway inflation.
Of course, if you ask Ben, he'll tell you -- as he did in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece -- that he's ready and waiting for inflation to rear its ugly head and has some weapons of inflation destruction that he's ready to put to work.
Throw him to the dogs?
Now, right smack in the middle of all of this, Bernanke's first term as Fed chairman will expire. An article in Fortune yesterday shouted its opinion in the title "Don't give Ben another term." Bloomberg, on the other hand, cited a recent poll in which 75% of the investors it surveyed took a favorable view of Bernanke and supported reappointment by 3-to-1.
If you ask me, I think changing out the Fed chief right now would be utter lunacy. Even if he hadn't done a very good job -- which I think he has -- one of the things investors hate above all else is uncertainty, and bringing in a new top dog right now would douse global markets with a big, stinky flood of uncertainty.
Looking all the way back to 2006, The Guardian saw exactly what was ahead when it published an article titled "Greenspan created a monster housing bubble ... but if the economy tanks, it will be Bernanke who gets the blame."
I can't help but agree. After all, when a baseball team brings in a reliever in the eighth inning with the team down by 15 runs and the bases loaded, do you blame the reliever for those runs? Or do you just hope that he can stem the tide? I'd argue that Big Ben has been throwing some pretty mean pitches and has kept this game from turning into the worse rout that it otherwise might have become.
The bottom line, though, is that the game isn't over yet. The housing market is still shaky at best, financial companies are only showing profits thanks to one-time events, and it's unclear whether the green shoots we think we see are a mirage. We have, however, moved in the right direction, and there seems little sense in shaking up this economic Etch A Sketch all over again by putting in fresh blood at the Fed's top spot.
What do you think?
You've heard my thoughts on Bernanke's reappointment, so now it's time for you to weigh in. Should Ben Bernanke stay put? Or should he start polishing up his resume? The Fed chairman is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate; the term is four years. Once you've taken the poll below, you can elaborate in the comments section further down.
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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer still owns shares of Bank of America, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool. The Fool’s disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants…