Transcript: Diane Sawyer Sits Down with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke


CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, right now I'm-- you know, I'm not thinking about the future. I'm just focused on-- what we can do to-- to help-- meet our mandate, which is-- growth-- l-- bring unemployment down and-- and keep prices-- stable.

DIANE SAWYER: But is there anything that 'cause make you think of stepping aside?

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: I-- this is-- these are hypothetical contingencies. I'm not gonna worry about them now. Again I'm just really focused on trying to get done this challenging task.

DIANE SAWYER: So if-- a president, whoever it is in 2014 asks you to stay--


DIANE SAWYER:---would you think about it?

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: --I'll-- I'll-- I'll think about anything, but-- basically-- it's just-- too hypothetical at this point.

DIANE SAWYER: Do you sleep better than you did a year ago?

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: I have been sleeping better. Things are-- are-- are s-- are moving in the right direction. As I said we've seen some-- some positive developments recently. The financial system looks stronger and more stable and-- and we are getting more lending. Some of the issues related to Europe where there's been a lot of financial stress have-- become a little bit less worrisome lately although they still have some very important long-term challenges. And so yeah, I'm-- I'm sleeping a little better. But-- again I think it's really important not to be-- complacent. I-- we have a long way to go, a lot of work to do, and-- and we're gonna keep doing that.

DIANE SAWYER: So the number one thing that keeps you up at night?

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, again-- we have-- 40% of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months. Those people are obviously facing a lot of hardship-- their skills could be eroding-- they may never be able to get back into the labor force at the same earnings level or same occupation that they had when they-- when they lost their jobs. So I think it's important for us to support the recovery and help people get back to work. At the same time, again every central bank-- pays a lot of attention to inflation. And we gotta make sure that whatever we do that we maintain the confidence of the public and the markets (UNINTEL) keep inflation-- low and stable.

DIANE SAWYER: You said at one point in an-- in 60 Minutes interview awhile back that you felt you could control it 100%.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: No, I didn't say that. What I-- the question was-- did we have confidence in the tools that we have to unwind the large balance sheet increases for example that we've done. And-- and I-- I do have 100% confidence that when the time comes to unwind-- the actions we've taken-- that we would be able to do that. Now, keeping inflation low and stable is gonna require more than just the technical tools. It's gonna require making a judgment about how much support the economy needs and when is the right time to begin withdrawing that support. And that's a problem that central bankers always face whether you're in a situation of non-standard tools or-- or normal monetary policy tools. So-- no, I'm not guaranteeing that the inflation will be exactly on target, but we're gonna do our very, very best to make sure it is.

DIANE SAWYER: Someone has written that they believe that you have had the longest sustained civil service in crisis (LAUGH) of anyone in modern times.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well-- it's true--

DIANE SAWYER: Plausible? Feel like that?

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