A more activist approach from the Fed

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee on July 16, 2008.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: What a difference a year makes. When financial executives gathered at this time last year in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the head of the Federal Reserve declared that it wasn't the central bank's job to protect banks or investors for their bad decisions. The Fed's annual symposium is getting under way in the shadow of the Grand Tetons today, and Marketplace's Dan Grech reports the landscape looks a lot different.


Dan Grech: The three-day conference reflects the new activist Fed. Its theme: "Maintaining Stability in a Changing Financial System."

Peter Morici: A year ago, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said it the Federal Reserve was not there to bail out banks. Well, in the last year, that's exactly what the Fed and Treasury have done.

That's economist Peter Morici at the University of Maryland. Since the last conference, the Fed has engineered the firesale of Bear Stearns. It shored up Fannie and Freddie. It handed out hundreds of billions in loans to reeling banks.

Morici: The Fed has assumed a new role: lender of last resort for banks that engage in irresponsible loans. It's loaned the banks far too much money without any conditionality. And now the Fed may be stuck with letting them keep it forever.

Morici says the Fed didn't force banks to improve their business practices as a condition of the loans. As a consequence, credit remains tight, and the housing crisis drags on.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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