Beyond the Bubble | Oct. 22

Bernanke’s plans for life after Federal Reserve chairmanship unclear

With the end of his term as chairman of the Federal Reserve slated to expire in January, former professor and chair of the economics department Ben Bernanke’s plans for life after government are still unclear.

“I prefer not to talk about my plans at this point,” Bernanke told reporters at a Sept. 18 press conference. “I hope to have more information for you at some reasonably soon date, but today I want to focus on monetary policy.”

Before his appointment to the Federal Reserve by President George W. Bush in 2006, Bernanke served as the chair of the University’s economics department from 1996 to 2002 and resigned following his appointment. He will be replaced by Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen, who was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama on Oct. 9.

The Federal Reserve’s Public Affairs staff said that Bernanke was not available for comment. Michelle Smith, assistant to the Federal Reserve Board and director, confirmed in an email that Bernanke has not yet publicly announced his plans for the future.

Economics professor Alan Blinder, who served as Federal Reserve vice chairman from 1994 to 1996, told The Daily Princetonian in February after Bernanke was announced as Baccalaureate speaker that the University could not rule out the possibility that Bernanke would return as a professor after his term ended.

However, Blinder said in a recent interview that he thought it is “unlikely” that Bernanke would return immediately to the University following his chairmanship.

“I don’t know,” Blinder said of Bernanke’s plans. “And probably he doesn’t yet [either] because he’s still a Federal Reserve chairman, so he has until January. But I’d be surprised at this stage if he comes back here.”

He added that Bernanke might remain in Washington because he has many professional connections there.

Even so, Blinder noted Bernanke’s decision to deliver a series of lectures on the 2007 economic recession at the George Washington University School of Business in March 2012, and he said that one could not discount the possibility that the Chairman might return to academia at some point in the mid- or long-term.

Blinder added that he thought Bernanke might miss teaching students.

Blinder said that having Bernanke back at the University would be a pleasant surprise for everyone. “Getting somebody like Ben Bernanke after his incredible experiences in Washington back here would be fantastic, I think, from our point of view — also from the faculty point of view, and especially from the student’s point of view.”

Bernanke still has the option of serving as a Federal Reserve Board member until 2020, a plan that Blinder considers “beyond stunning if he did.”

Several faculty in the economics department either did not respond to comment or said they did not have information about Bernanke’s plans.

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