MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Inside the downtown Hilton Hotel ballroom, the state’s business world gathered to hear a glimmer of hope from the man at the center of the storm.
Federal Reserve Chairman Dr. Ben Bernanke was the keynote speaker at the Economic Club of Minnesota’s season inaugural luncheon.
Bernanke began his 20 minute carefully scripted address saying, “the recovery from the crisis has been much less robust than we had hoped.”
Clearly, getting such a speaker to address issues dealing with the nation’s sluggish economy was a major coup for the club. Bernanke packed them in, speaking to more than 800 attendees.
Bernanke’s speech was intended to address the recent recession’s root causes as well as explain the slow climb out. Bernanke voiced some surprise at how this recovery is different than from most recessions dating back to World War II, particularly as measured in consumer spending and confidence.
“Readings on consumer confidence have fallen substantially in recent months as people have become more pessimistic about economic conditions and their own financial prospects,” said Bernanke.
Bernanke spoke of the nation’s sluggish rate of growth, with the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) barely putting along at under 1-percent. He said some of the weakness can be attributed to temporary factors, including strains on consumer and business budgets caused by high oil prices and the effects of the Japan tsunami and earthquake.
Particularly concerning is the slow recovery in the housing market, as home building remains anemic.
“The rate of new home construction has remained at less than one-third of its pre-crisis level,” said Bernanke.
Yet, Bernanke gave no hints of further steps to boost the recovery. Still, Investment banker Tom Sagissor is impressed with Bernanke’s long-term optimism.
“He’s 24-7,” said Sagissor. “He is concerned about the economy and the people of the United States and is concerned about where we are today versus where we want to be in the future.”
Bernanke ended his brief engagement on a lighter note. When he was asked for his take on Hollywood’s portrayal of him in the film, “Too Big to Fail,” Bernanke didn’t skip a beat. He quickly quipped, “I didn’t see that movie — I saw the original.”
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