Bernanke, whose term as chairman ends on January 31, told a private
lunchtime meeting with senators that the reduction in federal budget
deficits and the country's improving energy position were "all
positives" contributing to a healthier U.S. economy, according to
Senator Thomas Carper of Delaware.
Carper added that Bernanke said that "the next several years are
more encouraging, but we can't forget those long-term challenges and
they involve among other things programs that are concerned with
An aging U.S. population will put increasing pressure on the federal
government as it struggles to provide retirement and healthcare
benefits to the elderly, poor and disabled.
Bernanke did not speak to reporters upon leaving the meeting and a
spokeswoman for the U.S. central bank declined to comment.
The Fed last month decided to begin scaling back its bond-buying
monetary stimulus, dropping its monthly purchases to $75 billion
from $85 billion. Exiting the stimulus program will likely be the
main task on the plate for Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who was
confirmed by the Senate on Monday to succeed Bernanke.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, arguing on the Senate floor that
an extension of jobless benefits would boost the U.S. economy,
quoted Bernanke as saying that the economy could do much better.
"He talked about the vibrancy of this economy now," said Reid, a
Democrat. "He said ... it's not as good as it should be. But he
said: 'With a little bit of help it would be on fire.'"
Senate Budget Committee head Patty Murray said Bernanke was "very
astute, talking about how things are looking up and some of the
things we need to be doing investing in infrastructure and research
that will help our economy in the future."
[to top of second column]
Senator Charles Schumer emerged from the session declaring to
reporters that the Fed chief "thinks over the next four or five
years the deficit is in very good control but he's much more worried
about middle-class incomes and growth of average families than he is
about the deficit."
President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress are
focusing their 2014 political message on the need to narrow the
income gap between rich and poor.
Schumer, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat and a senior member of
the Senate Banking Committee, said Bernanke also discussed the issue
of financial institutions that are deemed "too big to fail."
Asked how Bernanke addressed that issue, Schumer said: "One of the
ways is to have market forces deal with the ability of closing banks
when they're in trouble and he talked about how the credit rating
agencies, realizing that the government might not come in and bail
out these institutions anymore, have actually lowered their credit
ratings, which is a market force."
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan
Cornwell; editing by Andrew Hay and Meredith Mazzilli)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.