Today Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke announced he would hold four annual press conferences, after select meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee. The first such meeting will be on April 27 and will be webcast.
While I generally haven’t been a fan of Bernanke’s policy decisions, many of his “process” decisions, such as holding these press conferences, have been moves in the right direction of greater Fed communication with the public. The Fed took some bold moves during and since the financial crisis – often without a word to the public. Indeed, it is interesting that this announcement comes only a few days after the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the Bloomberg suit demanding Fed disclosure of banks assisted during the crisis.
It remains to be seen, however, if these press briefings provide any real substance or explanation of the Fed’s actions. After all, I don’t think Bernanke’s appearance on “60 Minutes” really changed anyone’s mind. But then again, the interview was fairly devoid of actual substance. For these future press briefings to have any real value, the reporters involved are going to have to ask tough, insightful questions, rather than the fluff Bernanke is used to.
Then perhaps the real problem with the Fed’s communication strategy is that it has been only one-way. By now we all know that Bernanke didn’t want to be the Fed chair that oversaw “Great Depression II,” or that he’s just a simple guy from Dillon, SC. But how about some sense that Bernanke is not just lecturing, but listening? Where’s the evidence that he understands the squeeze that rising food and gas prices put on the middle class? Where’s the evidence that he gets that the “Phillips Curve” isn’t real?
I am going to hold out for the best. Maybe these briefings will provide some substance where previous appearances have not.