What Does the Fed Chairman Do?

Ben Bernanke, if confirmed, would be the 14th chairman of the Federal Reserve System since its creation in 1913. Only five men have been in that office in the past 50 years, with Alan Greenspan and William Martin serving terms of more than 15 years each.

What does a Fed chairman do?

      The chairman of the Federal Reserve is the public face of the nation's central bank.

      He testifies before Congress, makes public speeches and is the most powerful member of the committee that effectively sets interest rates for the United States.

      He also presides over the seven-member Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Some would argue that the Fed chairman is the most powerful presidentially appointed official in the U.S. government because he directly affects the pocketbooks of every American and American business (and the global economy).

By setting two key interest rates (the discount rate and the Fed funds rate), the Fed is able to set the price of borrowing money in the U.S. economy, spurring growth or diffusing inflationary pressures.

The Fed also controls the nation's money supply -- the number of dollars floating around in the world economy -- by buying and selling U.S. treasury securities.

Who were the previous chairmen?

      Charles S. Hamlin (August 10, 1914 - August 9, 1916)
      William P. G. Harding (August 10, 1916 - August 9, 1922)
      Daniel R. Crissinger (May 1, 1923 - September 15, 1927)
      Roy A. Young (October 4, 1927 - August 31, 1930)
      Eugene Meyer (September 16, 1930 - May 10, 1933)
      Eugene R. Black (May 19, 1933 - August 15, 1934)
      Marriner S. Eccles (November 15, 1934 - January 31, 1948)
      Thomas B. McCabe (April 15, 1948 - March 31, 1951)
      William McChesney Martin, Jr. (April 2, 1951 - January 31, 1970)
      Arthur F. Burns (February 1, 1970 - January 31, 1978)
      G. William Miller (March 8, 1978 - August 6, 1979)
      Paul A. Volcker (August 6, 1979 - August 11, 1987)
      Alan Greenspan (August 11, 1987 - present)

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