Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is often characterized as a inflation-monger. There’s just one problem with that criticism. As David Leonhardt demonstrates in the New York Times, when it comes to inflation, Bernanke is a piker compared to most of his predecessors:Inflation has averaged just 2.3% under his leadership (as officially measured), less than under Greenspan, Volcker, Burns, or Miller and only slightly more than under Martin.
It’s conceivable, of course, that inflation will take off in coming years, and the critics will be proven right. At this point, however, that’s nothing more than speculation. And before you make that bet, keep one thing in mind. Bernanke is the first chairman to have the ability to pay interest on excess bank reserves. That’s a powerful tool for keeping reserves out of the marketplace if the inflation genie threatens to come out of its bottle.