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The Week Ahead: Fed struggles to keep economy in tune

Ben Bernanke has been chairman of the Federal Reserve since 2006. His predecessor, Alan Greenspan, was known as “the Maestro” for his perceived ability to conduct economic and market direction at will. Bernanke is more of an economic grand marshal, hoping others follow his lead and pick up the tune.|By Tom Hudson, McClatchy Newspapers

Great composers know one of their most powerful musical techniques is silence. The best music comes from what is between the notes.

Ben Bernanke has been chairman of the Federal Reserve since 2006. His predecessor, Alan Greenspan, was known as “the Maestro” for his perceived ability to conduct economic and market direction at will. Bernanke is more of an economic grand marshal, hoping others follow his lead and pick up the tune.

The Fed’s interest rate setting committee meets Tuesday and Wednesday, but it is doubtful the central bank will launch any new initiative to help the economy or spark hiring. That doesn’t mean it is out of ideas or ammunition. Bernanke has often repeated the bank has the capacity to undertake new strategies ó some of them untested, however ó to goose the economy.

The central bank has a big and imposing podium from which to conduct its monetary policy. But its score never includes political themes. Instead, the space between its notes on the economy is where politicians play.

Any concerted effort by the Federal Reserve to endorse a political course of action would strike the wrong chord. Still, by whistling the same melody with its current policies in the face of evaporating job creation, crumbling consumer confidence and a fragile housing market, the Federal Reserve is sending a loud message to politicians: It’s time for you to play along and help get America back to work.

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ABOUT THE WRITER
Tom Hudson is anchor and managing editor of “Nightly Business Report,” produced by NBR Worldwide and distributed nationally by PBS. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonNBR.
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©2011 The Miami Herald|

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