Why is the Fed so unpopular?


A new Gallup poll finds the Federal Reserve is the least popular among nine “key” federal agencies.

You can read the poll as an example of why government transparency is important — because the Fed’s low ranking is due, in part, to its opacity. There’s a serious debate in economics circles right now about the Fed’s performance during the economic crisis, and whether Ben Bernanke should be reappointed.

But I doubt most of Gallup’s respondents are privy to that debate; many Americans simply don’t understand what the Fed does. It’s just an opaque entity that handles the economy — and with the economy in the middle of a biting recession, the Fed’s popularity is plummeting.

Bernanke is starting to recognize this, which is why he held the Fed’s first-ever town hall meeting last weekend. That isn’t transparency, of course, so much as public relations; many of the Fed’s critics want to see major changes in the way the central bank discloses information (rightly so, in this reporter’s opinion). But this kind of outreach to the public might help the Fed repair its tattered image.


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