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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 3, 2006

Greenspan finishes an illustrious career

Not all changing-of-the guard ceremonies are worth noting. This one is.

Alan Greenspan has closed the book on 18 years as chairman of the Federal Reserve, succeeded by the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Ben Bernanke.

Bernanke comes to the job with gleaming credentials, a great relief to the world of finance. He is stepping into a pair of very big shoes.

While the president was sounding the call for the tax cuts he believes essential to a vital economy, Greenspan was delivering a final whack at inflation, raising interest rates by a quarter percentage point. He urged the central bank employees to keep up the fight.

"We are in charge of the nation's currency, and the central bank, because of that, is involved in everyone's daily lives," he said. "We are the guardians of their purchasing power."

He's been a vigilant guardian, anticipating the need for tweaks before most other Wall Street watchers even glimpsed a problem. It's one of the reasons the economy didn't come completely unhinged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Without a doubt, his successor comes equipped with the brains to do the job. The Harvard honors graduate also holds an economics doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

An even more hopeful sign: The 52-year-old Bernanke has stated his intention to keep the same steady hand on the reins. The complexities of an increasingly global economy, paired with the uncertain effects of the mounting national debt at home, mean we need a chairman to apply discipline during what's sure to be a challenging first term.

Let's hope he can develop some of the almost prescient instincts of his predecessor, an essential tool in navigating the potentially rough seas ahead.