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Bernanke Unfazed By Gold Standard

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"Return to the gold standard wouldn't work. . ."

Federal Chairman Bernanke defended the central bank's effect on the dollar Tuesday, deflecting the idea that policymakers should consider alternatives like the gold standard.

At the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke was pressed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) on the viability of a return to a gold-backed economy. Bernanke, who has studied the issue, said a return to the gold standard wouldn't work.

"It did deliver price stability over very long periods of time, but over shorter periods of time it caused wide swings in prices related to changes in demand or supply of gold. So I don't think it's a panacea," Bernanke told DeMint.

He said there were numerous practical issues that would prevent the return of gold as the world standard—namely, there's not enough gold in the world to effectively support the U.S. money supply.

"I don't think that a full-fledged gold standard would be practical at this point," Bernanke said.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) also engaged Bernanke on the currency issue, questioning whether the Fed's $600B bond-purchase program is, in effect, monetizing the U.S. debt. Bernanke noted the U.S couldn't have currency outstanding with no Treasury securities to back it up and that even [in] the steadiest economic times, the Fed engages in the buying and selling of U.S.-backed securities.

Kirk, however, noted that the U.S. did have currency not backed by federal debt at one time in its history—under the administration of President Andrew Jackson, the nation's seventh president.

Bernanke, appearing amused, was quick to respond: "So this was before the Civil War. . .[when] individual banks issued currency. We didn't have a national currency."

Not to be outdone, Kirk asked if it was possible for a country to have a currency without a trillion dollar debt. Bernanke said that was the case.

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