BernankeThe Federal Reserve decided on December 16 to keep interest rates at historic lows near zero percent. The Fed released a statement declaring that even though there are signs of improvement, economic conditions “are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.”

With the expiration of one of the most turbulent years, economically speaking, in American history, it is not surprising that Time magazine has recognized Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as Man of the Year. In an era of unbridled optimism gone bust, the ubiquitous media presence of the unassuming Princeton economist who has become — in Time’s panegyrical prose — “our mild-mannered economic overlord” and “the most powerful nerd on the planet” would make Bernanke a shoo-in for such recognition.

The economic conventional wisdom of the moment is that the U.S. economy has begun to turn around. According to mainstream economists, a tentative recovery can be found in the third-quarter numbers, and in the drop in new unemployment claims from October to November.

Long-renowned economist Paul Samuelson died on December 13 at his home in Belmont, Massachusetts, at the age of 94. In addition to writing Economics in 1948 — which became the best selling economics textbook for several decades, having been translated into forty-one languages and selling over four million copies — Samuelson also won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1970.

joblessNew claims for unemployment benefits rose more than analysts expected last week, while an unexpected narrowing in the trade gap in October provided some indication that the U.S. economy is steadily growing.

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