Steve Chapman

For that matter, consumers wouldn't be squeezing every nickel till Thomas Jefferson screams. If you expect prices to be higher tomorrow, the logical response is to buy today.

I asked John Makin, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, if he sees any danger of inflation. "I don't," he replied. Greg Mankiw, head of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, titled a recent blog post, "Why I am not very worried about inflation just now."

Herman Cain and others accuse Bernanke of undermining a strong dollar. But the dollar is actually up against the euro over the past six months, and it's about where it was four years ago, before the recession and the financial crisis. As Cochrane tells me, "People are still running to dollar securities, not from them."

Republicans have come to view Bernanke as a flunky for the incumbent president. Perry fears he is "allowing the Federal Reserve to be used for political purposes" -- in other words, to improve Obama's re-election chances.

But the Federal Reserve, by law, has two responsibilities: to promote full employment as well as stable prices. Bernanke is clearly striving to foster economic growth, which may be good for Obama but is also good for the country.

It's hard to guess what he would do differently if the election were three years away instead of one. If Republicans think the Fed should adopt a policy of utter indifference to high unemployment, they should say so.

Bernanke, who has done at least a competent job with hellish challenges, may wonder how he got to be a cartoon villain. He might reflect on the wisdom of Mark Twain: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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