“Ben Bernanke is a nerd,” says Time magazine. “He just happens to be the most powerful nerd on the planet,” and thus the 2009 Man of the Year
“Those green bills featuring dead Presidents,” Time informs us, “are labeled federal reserve note for a reason: the Fed controls the money supply.” As Chairman of the Fed, they further claim, Bernanke has been a visionary who “conjured up trillions of new dollars and blasted them into the economy; engineered massive public rescues of failing private companies; ratcheted down interest rates to zero,” etc. Thus, “he didn’t just reshape U.S. monetary policy; he led an effort to save the world economy.
People who think it was too soon to give Obama a Nobel Prize may wonder why “leading” an world economy rescue effort that has yet to fix massive unemployment here or abroad, or to loosen the pursestrings of lenders in America, rates Man of the Year status.
One possible answer is that Time, like Bernanke, represents the establishment, to use an old but newly-useful word, and establishment figures like to assure the hoi polloi that the authorities will fix things. When Time says “bleeding-heart liberals and tea-party reactionaries alike are trying to block [Bernake’s] appointment for a second four-year term,” they are suggesting, as establishmentarians always do during times of crisis, that opposition by fringe groups — in this case, committed liberals and conservatives — is just further proof that the man in the big office is on the right track.
Maybe he is and maybe he isn’t. There are some encouraging signs that the crisis may have peaked. But having heard, through months of meltdown, reassurances from obnoxious figures like Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner — with both of whom, Time tells us, Bernanke has had “unusually close partnerships” — citizens may be leery of official and quasi-official pronouncements that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Time is doing its bit to correct such impressions. If you had a lousy year, and regard with gloom the coming one, they remind you that “2009 was a period of weak recovery rather than catastrophic depression” thanks to the wise judgement of Ben Bernanke. They tell charming stories of Bernanke’s youth, and even impute to young Ben some courage (“Once, his house was egged after he ate dinner with a black friend named Kenneth Manning at the local Shoney’s”), so you’ll know their hero doesn’t have feet of clay.
By the end, when Bernanke’s old home town is shown to be a mess with 17 percent unemployment and Bernanke “says it might feel like a recession for quite a while,” it is hoped that we will see these not as symbols of failure, but as new worlds for our hero to conquer, and cluck with Time our tongues at calls for the authority of the Fed to be cut back just when things are getting good, albeit with the appearance of bad.
The MotT designation also makes a nice gift to lay at Bernanke’s feet just as he’s preparing to make a new Fed policy announcement, and the Senate banking committtee reconsiders his appointment.