Web Wealth: A look at the new Federal Reserve chair

The BBC calls Janet Yellen "a formidable intellect."
The BBC calls Janet Yellen "a formidable intellect."
Posted: February 03, 2014

Janet Yellen is to be sworn in Monday, the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve. Will she oversee an ongoing economic recovery? And what of the legacy of her predecessor, Ben Bernanke?

Bernanke's legacy is the subject of this Breakout video at Yahoo Finance. Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, says of the exiting Fed chair, "He gets credit, and quite rightly so, for steering us clear of a depression back in 2008." However, McBride says, it will be some time before Bernanke's real impact is known. McBride reminds us that prior to the economic meltdown, former Fed chair Alan Greenspan, replaced by Bernanke in 2006, was considered an economic "maestro." "They don't call Greenspan the maestro anymore. Not because of what happened when he was there but what happened after he left."

As Yellen takes over at the Fed, this report at Bloomberg.com says the new chair "probably will confront a test during her tenure as Federal Reserve chairman that both of her predecessors flunked: defusing asset bubbles without doing damage to the economy." On Greenspan's watch, a stock bubble burst and the housing bubble grew enormously. When it started to break, Bernanke at first played it down in 2007, this report says. "He proved to be wrong as the U.S. at the end of that year entered its worst economic contraction since the Great Depression."

How does Yellen look to the world outside the United States? The BBC calls her "the most powerful central banker in the world and, arguably, the most powerful woman in the world," then goes on to ask, "But who is she?" Brits on the street couldn't place her name. In this early January interview, BBC reporter Mary Ann Sieghart describes Yellen as a "formidable intellect," and the best-qualified chair in the Fed's history, but only after quipping, "Forget girl power. This is little-old-lady power," and describing the 67-year-old Fed boss as having "a pudding bowl of white hair," and noting that she had to stand on a wooden block to be seen over the lectern when introduced to the world by President Obama.

What is the Federal Reserve, and what does it do, anyway? The once-inscrutable central bank has an educational website for finding out how the bank works and who runs it. This page describes its structure and history. FederalReserveEducation.org is geared partly as a resource for classroom teachers, but the instructional material about "economic indicators," the Fed's 12 regional banks, and other mysteries is easy to navigate and helpful for getting up to speed on the basics of the century-old Fed.


rkanaley@phillynews.com

215-854-5114 @ReidKan

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