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Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says he will release a memoir

'I want people to understand what we knew, when we knew it, how we made decisions and how we dealt with the enormous economic uncertainty,' Bernanke said of his book.

By Husna Haq / February 25, 2014

Ben Bernanke testifies before the Joint Economic Committee in Washington in 2013.

Gary Cameron/Reuters

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The man who helped steer the country through one of its worst recessions in history will write an account of his tense tenure at the Federal Reserve.

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Ben Bernanke, former chairman of the Fed, is planning a memoir focusing on the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession, two of the most challenging hurdles ever to confront the Fed.

For a man often buffeted for his actions, it seems Bernanke will use his book to defend his sometimes controversial decisions.

“I want people to understand what we knew, when we knew it, how we made decisions and how we dealt with the enormous economic uncertainty,” Bernanke told the AP.

Bernanke, a former professor and head of the economics department at Princeton University, said the book will cover his entire tenure at the Fed, beginning in 2002 as a member of the Board of Governors through his chairmanship under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. After eight years as chairman of the Fed, Bernanke stepped down last month and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The former Fed chairman has yet to begin writing but told the AP he has been organizing his thoughts, will write the book himself, and expects to take a year to finish. The proposed memoir doesn’t yet have a publisher but expectations are high. According to reports, the deal for former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s memoir, “The Age of Turbulence,” was worth more than $8 million.

Though details are sparse, the book will assuredly draw attention both for the stature of its author and for the controversial nature of his tenure.

As the AP reports, “Few Fed chairmen confronted such profound challenges or became so controversial. Under his leadership, the Fed invoked all its conventional tools to salvage the economy. Once those were exhausted, Bernanke turned to extraordinary steps never before tried by the Fed.”

The former Fed leader is widely known for having cut short-term interest rates to near zero, a record low, and for launching an aggressive bond buying program.

For this, he was often censured both by conservatives for doing too much and by liberals for not doing enough. Bernanke told the AP the “political environment was pretty hostile at times” and was called a traitor by GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once told a gathering “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”

Which is why, in his book, Bernanke says, “I’d like to be able to explain that it (the Fed’s handling of the economy) was the right thing to do,” adding jokingly, “and to attest to my loyalty to the United States.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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