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


CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: It-- it does feel like it sometimes. I was-- you know, the only principle policymaker who bridged the two administrations. I was appointed as you know by-- by President Bush-- and then I was reappointed by President Obama. And so I-- I was there for the transition, and-- I was the continuity over that period. And-- yes-- this has been a very serious-- crisis followed by a tough-- recession and recovery. And we-- you know, it's been a long-- been a long haul certainly.

DIANE SAWYER: What do you say to your students or would you if they asked you-- in-- in sheer human terms about what lessons you've learned about crisis, dealing with crisis, staying steady in crisis?

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, staying steady's important-- projecting-- clarity of purpose and-- and-- consistency is very important. But you know, most of the time central bankers are very conservative and they follow orthodox procedures, and I think that's entirely appropriate. But sometimes-- you're in a situation where you need to do something more dramatic. And-- during the crisis-- not just myself, but-- our board and-- and many of our senior staff worked, you know, very long hours trying to figure out new solutions, new approaches that would help us-- stabilize the system and avoid-- a much worse-- outcome than we've had.

DIANE SAWYER: Ever feel it might be too much for one person, for a human?

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, it's-- I think a big misconception about the Fed that-- the chairman of the Fed is in some sense the only decision maker, the only actor, that's absolutely not true. It wasn't true for Greenspan, it wasn't true for Volcker and it's certainly not true for me. I have a very—teamwork-oriented approach-- both with my fellow policymakers on the Federal (UNINTEL) Committee. And-- I take a lot of solace from the fact that-- the Fed staff-- professional staff is-- of, you know, second to none as far as I'm concerned. And they've worked incredibly hard and provided lots of ideas and lots of-- professional-- competence. And they've just made the whole thing work much better.

DIANE SAWYER: I-- I want to just make sure I cover housing. And we're seeing these mixed signals on housing, housing prices still low, but we are seeing some-- up-tick in new house sales and also existing house sales. Have we hit bottom on housing?

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Well, housing remains-- a big concern for us. Normally in a recovery you would see housing growing much more quickly, construction-- housing related industries. So far housing is-- kinda still pretty flat. We have seen a few signs-- of-- of progress-- a few extra permits for construction. We see more construction in multi-family-- housing. More people are moving into apartment buildings for example. So there's a bit of-- a bit of a green shoot there if you-- if you will. But-- you know, we're not really yet in a full-fledged housing recovery. And you know, that will be part of-- the full recovery of the economy.

DIANE SAWYER: Can you say to the people back in-- by the Pee Dee River, the little Pee Dee River in Dillon, South Carolina that the American dream is intact?

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