By this time next year, Ben Bernanke could be tanned, rested and working on his memoirs. As the final six months of his second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve wind down, it is widely believed that he will not sign on for a third term.
"I think he's looking at himself and saying, 'Do I want to earn pennies a year at the Federal Reserve, or do I want to earn $20 million a year on Wall Street?'" says economist, writer, commentator Ben Stein, in the attached video. "At some point the $20 million is going to start beckoning him and I think he's going to take it."
While conventional wisdom concurs that Bernanke will bow out, there is anything but consensus when it comes to the matter of whether or not the former Princeton professor is finishing, or cleaning up, the mess he has left behind.
For Stein, who has been married to the same woman for 45 years, there is a lot of good things for which Bernanke will be remembered, including his efforts to "prop up the banks, the money supply and the economy."
But he says there's also one problem that Bernanke will forever have on his resume, a blunder so large that Stein calls is "the worst mistake in post-war economic policy."
"He did an incredibly terrible job at the beginning of his term, allowing Lehman Brothers to crash," Stein says, likening its collapse in 2008 to the failure of The Bank of the United States in 1931.
That said, it is worth noting that since making "that first catastrophic misstep" Stein believes that Bernanke "has done a very good job" and "deserves high praise."
Of course, only time will tell who will ultimately inherits Bernanke's job, but so far, two names can be found on most short lists; Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
While Stein calls Yellen "extremely smart" and "capable" and considers Summers "the smartest of the smart," he's quick to point out that there are quite a few "very smart people out there, but we just don't know their names as yet."
One wildcard pick that Stein does offer up is Gene Sperling, the current director of the National Economic Council and a man he calls "terribly likable," who hasn't received the publicity or credit he deserves.
Chairman Bernanke's term ends January 31, 2014.
- Budget, Tax & Economy
- Ben Bernanke