The presidential election is over, and it decided who will be president of the United States the next four years.
But contrary to what you might believe, it did not decide who the most powerful person in the country is.
Don’t say Michelle Obama is that person, although in some things, she may be more powerful than her husband. Unlike her husband, she doesn’t have to deal with Congress, so she may have more leeway in some things, such as telling people what they should eat. If she said, “Eat your ice cream,” I’d be one of her biggest supporters. But I know she won’t say that.
But I digress. Neither Mrs. Obama nor her husband is the most powerful, the most influential person in the country.
That person is a professorial man with a beard and a bald head, who often talks in riddles, and to whom other powerful people listen with rapt attention.
His name is Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, from whom we heard barely a peep during the recently ended campaign. It is the Federal Reserve, under Bernanke, that has kept interest rates so low, money is almost free to borrow. But it isn’t almost free to you and me, although if we are able to borrow, we may do so at a much lower rate than we did before the start of the recession.
The people who get virtually free money are the nation’s bankers, who borrow from the Federal Reserve, then lend much of that money to the government, almost risk free to themselves.
All that money, going around and around, has to come from somewhere, and it does: The Federal Reserve.
If Bernanke and his fellow central bankers decide to put the brakes on, we all will feel it, and to many of us, it won’t feel good. Neither Congress nor the president can do much about it. Now, that’s power.