Question time for Mr. Bernanke
By Neil Irwin
Ben Bernanke goes to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for one of the most important events on the Fed calendar: the twice-a-year, Congressionally mandated testimony on the nation's monetary policy, informally known as Humphrey-Hawkins testimony.
This is one of the key official mechanisms by which Congress -- and by extension, the American people -- hold the Fed accountable for its conduct in an area of policy that has vast sway over peoples' lives.
Of course, as the folks at Macroeconomic Advisers quantify in a new report, few members of Congress actually use the hearings for their intended purpose. In the February testimony, only 14 percent of the questions Bernanke was asked in the Senate were actually about monetary policy. (The Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee each get a day with Bernanke, and they alternate who goes first; Wednesday's testimony begins in the Senate).
So what did they ask him? A little more than 25 percent of the questions were about fiscal policy, over which Bernanke has no official responsibility. Other popular topics were the economic outlook (16 percent) and financial regulation (14 percent). A grab bag of other questions included derivatives, income inequality and China's currency policy.
More later on the questions that lawmakers should ask Bernanke at the hearings.
July 20, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories: Federal Reserve
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