It’s being called the “battle of the beards” — Paul Krugman vs. Ben Bernanke. Both are eminent (and bearded) economists: Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board; Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner and a prominent New York Times columnist. Krugman accuses Bernanke of being too timid in fighting high unemployment and slow economic growth. Bernanke calls Krugman’s policy proposals “reckless.” What’s going on?
Beyond the rhetoric, there’s a serious debate about the Federal Reserve. A decade ago, the Fed was widely seen as all-knowing and powerful. It could cushion business cycles, defuse financial crises and ensure prosperity. No more. Almost everyone thinks unemployment (8.1 percent in April) is declining too slowly. By year-end 2013, it will still be somewhere between 7 and 8.1 percent, according to top Fed officials’ latest estimates.
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