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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies during a Joint Economic Committee hearing today on Capitol Hill. - 


KAI RYSSDAL: Here's what we'll do. We'll play some tape of the Fed chairman during his testimony before the Joint Economic Committee this morning. Then I'll help you read between the lines a little bit. Here's quote number one:

BEN BERNANKE: As these credit problems resolve and as, we hope, the housing market begins to find a bottom, that the broader resiliency of the economy, which we are seeing in areas outside of housing, will take control and will help the economy return to a more reasonable growth pace.

Which is to say it's gonna get worse before it gets better. But the Fed's guessing the economy will be back to normal by the middle of next year. If all those things Mr. Bernanke was talking about do happen. If they don't?

BERNANKE: There are a number of factors at play right now and, uh ... including high oil prices, for example, that would be negatives for consumer spending. On the other hand, to the extent the labor market has remained reasonably strong and employment income has continued to grow, that is a positive to help sustain the consumer.

I don't know if you caught that, but it was the classic economist's line of "On the one hand/On the other hand. So he's got his bases covered either way.

Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal