Person of the Year? Not Bernanke. Try Grandma.
But wait, didn't Ben save us all from a Great Depression? Didn't his inspired and bold action opening taps and taking an axe to hogsheads of money down at the Fed preserve our very way of life? No. He preserved Wall Street's way of life. He saved the banks, not their depositors. In fact, he used the depositor's money (our money and that of our children and grandchildren) to not save the depositors, which I find particularly ironic.
We had a real estate crisis that precipitated a banking crisis, but Ben only fixed the banks, and not all that well, either.
And Grandma? She wrote a check, lots of checks, to her kids and grandkids helping them keep their homes. There is right now a charitable transfer of wealth happening from the oldest Americans to their middle-aged children that is, in many cases, the only thing keeping the latter in their homes.
Funny nobody talks about this.
Grandma is great, but Bernanke is just okay. He did a few things right but he didn't really fix the underlying problem with mortgages. He didn't do (and still hasn't done) simple things that could have had huge impact at relatively little cost.
Bankers aren't lending to small businesses, for example. President Obama had a photo opp this week to shame them into more lending. That won't work. Yes, BofA, for example, pledged another $5 billion, but is anyone going to remember? Is anyone going to measure compliance? If BofA doesn't actually come through with all $5 billion, will they be penalized? No, no, and no.
As the bank regulator, Bernanke could easily give banks a target or a quota for small business lending and tell them if they don't comply they'll be out of business.
For that matter, why didn't Obama order Bernanke to do that? Good question.
Why cajole when he could command? I can only guess that Ben Bernanke is too constrained by his academic understanding of what a Fed chairman is supposed to do. Or maybe he just has no balls.
Either way, Ben's no Man of the Year.
It's a good thing, then, that we have Grandma.