When Alan Greenspan was chairman of the Federal Reserve, he was famous for making his points in the most elaborately phrased, dense and elliptical fashion possible. The parlor game of interpreting Greenspan became a way of life for financial analysts.
Compare those days with this: “It’s no way to run a railroad.”
That was Greenspan’s successor, Ben Bernanke, to Congress the other day. He was decrying, explicitly, the behavior of Congress in the debate about raising the debt limit, something that was once a relatively routine action.
By pressing the cause of budget cuts to the point of threatening the default of the U.S. government, Bernanke said with unGreenspanian directness, Congress hurt the economy at a time when business did not need that kind of uncertainty.
We hope Bernanke’s words are heard by members, particularly those averse to compromise in the GOP ranks in the U.S. House. There is no all-or-nothing budget deal that can be achieved by pulling down the pillars of the American economy.
Bernanke’s advice, however, about how to go forward is difficult to achieve. If Congress can find some magic elixir of short-term stimulus and long-term debt reduction, then by all means we hope the Louisiana delegation will support it. But if that is too difficult to achieve, then perhaps our delegation and Congress as a whole should look for ways to fight over budget deficits and spending plans without the series of catastrophic collisions on the tracks.
“No way to run a railroad.” We applaud Bernanke’s straight talk. We hope his listeners absorb the lesson.