WASHINGTON (MNI) – The following is the text of the transcript
of an interview between Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and ABC
News which is scheduled to air on ABC at 6:30 p.m ET March 27:
DIANE SAWYER: But is there anything that ’cause make you think of
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: I– this is– these are hypothetical
contingencies. I’m not gonna worry about them now. Again I’m just really
focused on trying to get done this challenging task.
DIANE SAWYER: So if– a president, whoever it is in 2014 asks you
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well–
DIANE SAWYER:—would you think about it?
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: –I’ll– I’ll– I’ll think about anything, but–
basically– it’s just– too hypothetical at this point.
DIANE SAWYER: Do you sleep better than you did a year ago?
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: I have been sleeping better. Things are– are–
are s– are moving in the right direction. As I said we’ve seen some–
some positive developments recently. The financial system looks stronger
and more stable and– and we are getting more lending. Some of the
issues related to Europe where there’s been a lot of financial stress
have– become a little bit less worrisome lately although they still
have some very important long-term challenges. And so yeah, I’m– I’m
sleeping a little better. But– again I think it’s really important not
to be– complacent. I– we have a long way to go, a lot of work to do,
and– and we’re gonna keep doing that.
DIANE SAWYER: So the number one thing that keeps you up at night?
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, again– we have– 40% of the unemployed
have been out of work for more than six months. Those people are
obviously facing a lot of hardship– their skills could be eroding–
they may never be able to get back into the labor force at the same
earnings level or same occupation that they had when they– when they
lost their jobs. So I think it’s important for us to support the
recovery and help people get back to work. At the same time, again every
central bank– pays a lot of attention to inflation. And we gotta make
sure that whatever we do that we maintain the confidence of the public
and the markets — keep inflation– low and stable.
DIANE SAWYER: You said at one point in an– in 60 Minutes interview
awhile back that you felt you could control it 100%.
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: No, I didn’t say that. What I– the question
was– did we have confidence in the tools that we have to unwind the
large balance sheet increases for example that we’ve done. And– and I–
I do have 100% confidence that when the time comes to unwind– the
actions we’ve taken– that we would be able to do that. Now, keeping
inflation low and stable is gonna require more than just the technical
tools. It’s gonna require making a judgment about how much support the
economy needs and when is the right time to begin withdrawing that
support. And that’s a problem that central bankers always face whether
you’re in a situation of non-standard tools or– or normal monetary
policy tools. So– no, I’m not guaranteeing that the inflation will be
exactly on target, but we’re gonna do our very, very best to make sure
DIANE SAWYER: Someone has written that they believe that you have
had the longest sustained civil service in crisis (LAUGH) of anyone in
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well– it’s true–
DIANE SAWYER: Plausible? Feel like that?
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: It– it does feel like it sometimes. I was– you
know, the only principle policymaker who bridged the two
administrations. I was appointed as you know by– by President Bush–
and then I was reappointed by President Obama. And so I– I was there
for the transition, and– I was the continuity over that period. And–
yes– this has been a very serious– crisis followed by a tough–
recession and recovery. And we– you know, it’s been a long– been a
long haul certainly.
DIANE SAWYER: What do you say to your students or would you if they
asked you– in– in sheer human terms about what lessons you’ve learned
about crisis, dealing with crisis, staying steady in crisis?
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, staying steady’s important– projecting–
clarity of purpose and– and– consistency is very important. But you
know, most of the time central bankers are very conservative and they
follow orthodox procedures, and I think that’s entirely appropriate. But
sometimes– you’re in a situation where you need to do something more
dramatic. And– during the crisis– not just myself, but– our board
and– and many of our senior staff worked, you know, very long hours
trying to figure out new solutions, new approaches that would help us–
stabilize the system and avoid– a much worse– outcome than we’ve had.
DIANE SAWYER: Ever feel it might be too much for one person, for a
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, it’s– I think a big misconception about
the Fed that– the chairman of the Fed is in some sense the only
decision maker, the only actor, that’s absolutely not true. It wasn’t
true for Greenspan, it wasn’t true for Volcker and it’s certainly not
true for me. I have a veryteamwork-oriented approach– both with my
fellow policymakers on the Federal (UNINTEL) Committee. And– I take a
lot of solace from the fact that– the Fed staff– professional staff
is– of, you know, second to none as far as I’m concerned. And they’ve
worked incredibly hard and provided lots of ideas and lots of–
professional– competence. And they’ve just made the whole thing work
DIANE SAWYER: I– I want to just make sure I cover housing. And
we’re seeing these mixed signals on housing, housing prices still low,
but we are seeing some– up-tick in new house sales and also existing
house sales. Have we hit bottom on housing?
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, housing remains– a big concern for us.
Normally in a recovery you would see housing growing much more quickly,
construction– housing related industries. So far housing is– kinda
still pretty flat. We have seen a few signs– of– of progress– a few
extra permits for construction. We see more construction in
multi-family– housing. More people are moving into apartment buildings
for example. So there’s a bit of– a bit of a green shoot there if you–
if you will. But– you know, we’re not really yet in a full-fledged
housing recovery. And you know, that will be part of– the full recovery
of the economy.
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** MNI Washington Bureau (202) 371-2121 **