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Published: Monday, 9/17/2012


Shaking things up

In moving aggressively to stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke can't avoid speculation that he sought to contribute to President Obama's re-election. So be it.

Given the failure of Congress to adopt its own measures to stimulate the economy, and the overwhelming evidence that a weak recovery is not alleviating persistently high jobless rates, Mr. Bernanke had little choice but to act. To his credit, he has acted decisively.

Late last week, the Fed pledged, for the first time, to keep interest rates super-low, pumping money into the economy until job markets improve substantially. The Fed will buy $40 billion worth of mortgage bonds each month, and $45 billion in Treasury bonds, through the end of the year. After that, the Fed will probably continue to buy tens of billions of dollars' worth of such assets each month, unless the economy suddenly and sharply rebounds.

That should give businesses, consumers, and investors confidence to borrow money to buy houses, move money into stocks, and expand businesses. The day the Fed announced the moves, Wall Street reacted with a rally that spiked the Dow Jones Industrial Average by more than 200 points.

Lowering long-term interest rates risks discouraging savings and sparking inflation. The risk is small, and worth it. Price stability is part of the Fed's mandate. But reducing unemployment, which has exceeded 8 percent nationally for nearly four years, is by far the bigger menace.

It took a surprisingly bold move by the Fed to inject life into the economy and give hope to 12.5 million unemployed Americans. Now it's Congress' turn.

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