Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was named Person of the Year by Time magazine on Wednesday, giving him a high-profile boost as he tries to fend off proposals that might weaken the Fed’s independence.
The selection puts the mild-mannered Bernanke, a former professor, in the company of U.S. President Barack Obama, Pope John Paul II and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other prominent world figures the magazine has picked in past years.
The Senate is considering Bernanke’s nomination to a second term to head the Fed -- the US central bank -- and while he is expected to win confirmation, criticism of the Fed among the public and members of Congress is at its highest in decades.
The Fed’s role in bailouts of Wall Street has prompted criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Some lawmakers are pushing proposals to curb the Fed’s regulatory powers and open up its interest rate decision to congressional audits.
The Fed worries that congressional second-guessing of its policy decisions would compromise its fiercely-guarded independence.
One poll by Rasmussen Reports this month showed public support for Bernanke’s nomination at a scant 21 percent, with 41 percent stating opposition, but he continues to enjoy support on Wall Street and among many lawmakers.
"Ben is the person that kept us from going over the edge of the precipice and into the abyss," said former Fed Governor Lyle Gramley, now a senior economic adviser at Soleil Securities.
But Republican Senator Jim Bunning, one of the Fed’s sharpest critics, said Time’s pick was a reward for "failure."
"Many of the problems our markets are facing right now could have been avoided had Chairman Bernanke not been asleep at the switch," Bunning said in a statement.
Time credited the 56-year-old Bernanke with creative leadership that helped set the U.S. economy on a path to recovery even as he and other policy makers remain concerned about a high unemployment rate of 10 percent
mild-mannered：behaving in or having a mild or gentle manner（温和的）
second-guess：to use hindsight in criticizing or correcting（质疑，事后劝告）
scant：barely sufficient in amount or quantity; not abundant; almost inadequate（不足的，欠缺的）
asleep at the switch：failing to perform one’s duty, missing an opportunity, etc., because of negligence or inattention（玩忽职守，错过机会）