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Bush...s Fed. Reserve Nominee Will Speak At 2006 Graduation

By Beckett W. Sterner

The 2006 commencement speaker will be Ben S. Bernanke PhD ’79, President Bush’s nominee for Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“His career, in the academy and in government, has exemplified values that are central to MIT — personal integrity, analytical rigor, an uncompromising drive toward excellence, and a commitment to public service,” said President Susan Hockfield in a press release.

Bernanke is currently chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and could become chairman of the Federal Reserve, replacing Alan Greenspan, by Feb. 1 with the Senate’s approval.

Bernanke’s nomination earlier this year received wide praise from economics professors at MIT who knew him as a student.

“Of the people who might conceivably have been appointed by the Bush administration, Ben is far and away the best,” said Robert M. Solow, professor emeritus and Nobel Laureate, in October. “I think he will be independent and apolitical,” Solow said.

Bernanke has taken a relatively low political profile so far; he is a Republican but has been described as non-ideological.

According to the New York Sun, his friends say Bernanke is a “supple thinker and a deceptively shrewd politician with a deadpan wit.”

Bernanke has been a professor at Stanford and department chair at Princeton, as well as a governor of the Federal Reserve.

While at Princeton, Bernanke made a name for himself by arguing that maintaining the gold standard during the Great Depression had worsened America’s economic woes, contrary to conventional economics wisdom, according to the New York Times.

In a January speech, Bernanke took a lighthearted perspective on his time as department head at Princeton. “I served seven years as the chair of the Princeton economics department,” he said, “where I had responsibility for major policy decisions, such as whether to serve bagels or doughnuts at the department coffee hour.”

The most likely change that Bernanke will implement upon becoming Chairman of the Reserve is to implement public targets for inflation, partly clarifying Greenspan’s obscurantist approach.

“Greenspan was an individualist with an eclectic, adaptive approach to monetary policy,” said Bengt Holmstrom, head of the Economics Department, in an e-mail in October. “Unlike Greenspan, Bernanke believes in setting inflation targets and sticking to them.”