Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dove or Hawk? Bernanke's record

In yesterday's testimony at the U.S. Senate Ben Bernanke was accused of policies that could potentially generate high inflation. Senator Corker accused the Fed Chairman of nor being concerned enough about inflation by saying "I don't think there's any question that you would be the biggest dove since World War II". The term "dove" in the context of central banks is used to describe policies that put more weight on unemployment and less on inflation (as opposed to "hawks" who do the opposite). Ben Bernanke defended himself by mentioning that he has one of the strongest records in terms of inflation of any previous Chairman.

Below is a quick check on both the inflation as well as the unemployment record of the last six chairmen of the US Fed. Ben Bernanke has so far produced one of the lowest inflation rates since the 1950s. When it comes to unemployment, his record is not that positive, only second to Paul Volcker in terms of high unemployment rates.

Comparing performance of central banks without controlling for other factors (such as the depth and frequency of economic crisis or shocks during their mandates) is not fair but at a minimum it provides some basic facts to back the statement by Ben Bernanke that it is difficult to see his record as someone who put too much weight on unemployment and too little on inflation.

Antonio Fatás