Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked Ben Bernanke at the recent Senate Budget Committee if the lack of Presidential leadership was hurting the US economy. He asked, “I’m afraid President Obama has just been phoning it in here the last couple years in terms of our debt and deficit issue. … Can you speak to how harmful that is in terms of economic growth?”
Now Bernanke can’t answer these sorts of things straight away. But he basically got there. Here’s what he said:
Well Senator, I’m not going to comment on parliamentary maneuverings, but Senator Wyden made exactly the same question. You know, is uncertainty about the future of the tax code, government programs, and so on a negative for growth? I think it is because firms like to have certainty, like to be able to plan. And again I would take on the same responsibility as a regulator, that we need to make regulations as clear and as effective as possible.
So he’s saying that firms like to have certainty and that as a regulator, Bernanke wants things to be clear and effective. Today Jake Tapper asked Jay Carney about this. Should Senate pass a budget? Does the President have an opinion on this? Turns out that the answer is no
TAPPER: The White House has no opinion about whether or not the Senate should pass a budget? The president’s going to introduce one. The Fed chair says not having one is bad for growth. But the White House has no opinion about whether –
CARNEY: I have no opinion — the White House has no opinion on Chairman Bernanke’s assessment of how the Senate ought to do its business.
I think it is worth recalling why the Senate stopped passing budgets. Because they are politically difficult, and being accountable is hard in an election year. The Senate last passed a budget on April 29, 2009. They didn’t work on a budget in 2010. Why? Because a budget requires taking responsibility for the fiscal state of our country. And it was clear that the 2010 election was going to be rough for Democrats. So what did they do? They ducked. They dodged all responsibility. Republicans were willing to do it in the House, but the Senate was not. They didn’t even bring a serious budget to the floor and haven’t since.
And since the Republicans have been able to put their ideas up for inspection by the American people. See the Ryan Budget. Republicans are willing to fight an election on ideas and tell the American people what sacrifices will need to be made to address our fiscal crisis.
But now, not only is the Senate failing the American people, but President Obama is helping the Senate in dodging this responsibility. The fact is that he has no opinion on running the country like an adult. He has “no opinion” about giving business certainty.
Thank you Ron Johnson for asking the question and getting the clarity on this from Chairman Bernanke. And thank you to Jake Tapper for asking the White House if they are interested in leading.