The AP reports that Ben Bernanke didn’t talk much about consumer protection in today’s testimony before Congress:
Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., was stunned by what he thought was Bernanke’s short shrift to the consumer protection issue. “Five sentences on consumer protection when everything else gets substantially more space,” Watt said. “It is just not a good message to send.”
During the hearing, Bernanke conceded that the Fed didn’t do the job it should have in protecting consumers, but said improvements are being made. He suggested the central bank could take further steps to strengthen such oversight.
“We are competent and have the skills … I think we can do that,” he said.
You could take this two ways. First, maybe Watts is right: this is evidence that Bernanke just fundamentally doesn’t care about consumer protection. Second, it might mean that Bernanke has decided not to continue opposing the creation of an independent consumer protection agency. He’s still making some pro forma remarks about the Fed’s capabilities, but he’s not really fighting to keep hold of its consumer protection portfolio any longer.
Either way, though, the next step is still the same: strip the Fed of its consumer responsibilities and put them in a CFPA that will actually make them a top priority. Bernanke’s testimony puts us a step closer to that.