Washington: Time magazine on Wednesday named Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke its 2009 “Person of the Year.”
“The recession was the story of the year,” Time managing editor Richard Stengel said in a statement. “Without Ben Bernanke, Time’s 2009 Person of the Year, it would have been a lot worse.
“We’ve rarely had such a perfect revision of the cliche that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” Stengel said.
“Bernanke didn’t just learn from history; he wrote it himself and was damned if he was going to repeat it.”
Time said the runners-up for the award were General Stanley McChrystal, “the Chinese worker,” Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, and Jamaican sprint champion Usain Bolt.
President Barack Obama, last year’s winner, and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs were also on a shortlist of finalists revealed by Time on Monday.
Time senior writer Michael Grunwald said the main reason Bernanke was selected is because he is “the most important player guiding the world’s most important economy.
“His creative leadership helped ensure that 2009 was a period of weak recovery rather than catastrophic depression, and he still wields unrivaled power over our money, our jobs, our savings and our national future,” Grunwald said.
The 56-year-old Bernanke, in an interview with Time, said the financial crisis had brought the United States “very, very close to a depression.
“The markets were in anaphylactic shock,” he said. “I’m not happy with where we are, but it’s a lot better than where we could be... Of course there were things we could have done better, but this was a perfect storm.”
On bringing down unemployment, Bernanke said “the additional steps aren’t as obvious or clear as the ones we’ve already taken.
“It’s an enormous problem. There aren’t easy solutions,” he said.
Asked about banker compensation, Bernanke said “I think that bankers ought to recognize that the government and the taxpayer saved the financial system from utter collapse last year.
“And in recognizing that, I would think that bankers ought to look in the mirror and decide that perhaps there should be some more restraint in how much they pay themselves, given what the government and the taxpayer did to protect the system,” he said.