Scott Lanman
Monday, January 4th, 2010

[efoods]Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said low central bank interest rates didn’t cause the housing bubble of the past decade and that better regulation would have been more effective in curbing the boom.

“The best response to the housing bubble would have been regulatory, rather than monetary,” Bernanke said yesterday in remarks to the American Economic Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta. The Fed’s efforts to constrain the bubble were “too late or were insufficient,” which means that regulatory actions “must be better and smarter,” he said.

Bernanke said the Fed is improving supervision of banks and has strengthened measures to protect consumers of financial products. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, who backs Bernanke for a second term, has called the Fed’s oversight of bank lending before the crisis an “abysmal failure.” Dodd proposes stripping the Fed and other agencies of bank supervision powers and moving them to a new regulator.

Scholars such as Allan Meltzer, a historian of the central bank, have criticized the Fed for helping fuel the housing boom by keeping interest rates too low for too long. The bursting of the housing bubble led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

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