Are You Happy? Ben Bernanke Wants to Know

Are you happy? Ben Bernanke wants to know

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER


WASHINGTON (AP) - Ben Bernanke wants to know if you are happy.

The Federal Reserve chairman said Monday that gauging happiness can be as important for measuring economic progress as determining whether inflation is low or unemployment high. Economics isn't just about money and material benefits, Bernanke said. It is also about understanding and promoting "the enhancement of well-being."

Bernanke and Fed policymakers rely on reports on hiring, consumer spending and other economic data when making high-stakes decisions about the $15 trillion U.S. economy. The Fed's dual mandate is to maintain low inflation and full employment.

"We should seek better and more-direct measurements of economic well-being," Bernanke said Monday in a video-taped speech shown to a conference of economists and statisticians in Cambridge, Mass. After all, promoting well-being is "the ultimate objective of our policy decisions."

Few Americans are likely to say they are happy with the economy right now. Unemployment rose in July to 8.3 percent, and economic growth has slowed sharply from the start of the year. Bernanke himself called the recovery "frustratingly slow" when he testified to Congress on July 17.

Still, Bernanke says aggregate statistics can mask important information about how individual Americans are faring.

His speech Monday was the latest foray into a relatively new specialty in economics known as "happiness studies." Bernanke attracted widespread notice when he spoke about the economics of happiness in a May 2010 commencement address at the University of South Carolina.

In that speech, he said research has found that once basic material needs are met, more wealth doesn't necessarily make people happier.

"Or, as your parents always said, money doesn't buy happiness," Bernanke said then. "Well, an economist might reply, at least not by itself."

In his remarks Monday, Bernanke turned to the more practical - and difficult - task of measuring a subjective emotion. So far, most efforts have involved surveys in which people are asked about whether they are happy and what contributes to their happiness.

Those surveys have found some consistent answers: physical and mental health, the strength of family and community ties, a sense of control over one's life, and opportunities for leisure activity.

The Kingdom of Bhutan has been tracking happiness for four decades. The tiny Himalayan nation stopped tracking gross national product in 1972 and instead switched to measuring Gross National Happiness.

Bernanke on Monday sketched out a few other questions he would like to know: How secure do Americans feel in their jobs? How confident are Americans in their future job prospects? How prepared are families for financial shocks?

These indicators "could be useful in measuring economic progress or setbacks as well as in explaining economic decision-making," Bernanke said.

It's safe to say that Bernanke wouldn't expect a great deal of optimism if those questions were asked now.

The Fed has said it plans to keep its key short-term interest rate near zero until late 2014, an indication that it expects the economy to stay weak for another two and a half years. And Fed policymakers appeared to signal after its two-day meeting last week a growing inclination to take further steps to lift the economy out of its slump.

Bernanke's own definition of happiness might baffle anyone without an advanced degree. He called it a "short-term state of awareness that depends on a person's perceptions of one's immediate reality, as well as on immediate external circumstances and outcomes."

It's not exactly how the classic comic strip Peanuts described it when it said, "Happiness is a warm puppy." But perhaps Bernanke's version can be measured more easily in surveys.

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chris1011

Why is Mitt running?
I deferred military service for bicycling in France.
I lived in a 5bedroom house while there, with a chef/ housekeeper and houseboy.
I claimed I lived like poor people then.
I spent the duration of the Vietnam War, proselytizing and converting people to my faith.

At Bain when I became the CEO; I turned the company from venture capital into a corporate raider.
I drove many companies bankrupt after stripping them of their assets and selling them.
I acquired Damon Corps medical labs and while there the company defrauded Medicare to the tune of 100s of millions. When I left the company was bankrupt and 1000 people lost their jobs.
I oversaw the second biggest Medicare fraud in History; just behind my friend Rick Scott’s who is trying to steal Florida for me.
I lay off more than 10’s thousand living, breathing people, solely to line my own pocket.
I enjoy firing people.
Of the companies I didn’t completely bankrupt, I drove 10,000s of people with livable wages into accepting minimum wage and told every single one, if they don’t like it they could leave.
At the same time I gave top management huge pay raises.
I created 10,000s of jobs on foreign shores and people who worked for me there, earned a couple dollars a day, See Global tech. China and Haier Electricals China.
I retired...
I pay 13%; in taxes on unhidden money which until it became illegal in 2011 I hid in tax havens.
I had the third lowest employment rate in any state in America as governor.
While I was governor, I used the Heritage Foundation’s Healthcare plan and created Romneycare’.
It lowered the insurance costs for Massachusetts by 1/3 since introduction.
I was proud when President Obama decided to use the plan, as I thought it would help my chances of becoming President but it was vilified by my party on purely political grounds, so backed away from it.
I cost the state $200000 when I left by replacing all of the states government computers to hide my record.

I think corporations are people but if you look at my history, you’ll find I don’t think people are worth telling the truth.

I have made $1/4billion by destroying thousands of lives.
I don’t care about any of those lives, and as you can see, I have no intentions of being honest with them.
I spent $200.000.000 to beat the weakest and most bizarre field ever in rightwing politics.
Those candidates warned you about me,

August 10 2012 at 10:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AzFun555

Is he kidding or just out of touch? Am I happy with the current pressure of not knowing if I will have a job in three to five months, let me answer that. NO I have a suggestion, lets see if the congress and senate folks would be happy with their job if we put this accountablity on them. If unemployment is not 5% by nov. 1st, your fired.

August 10 2012 at 7:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FRANK

Hey BB. Im a word.... "NO".

August 09 2012 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary and Alex

Dear Mr. Bernanke,
you people in washington have no idea what pressure you have put on the the american family & Retirees., See Sir you get a Govt. pay check every 2 weeks no matter what happens, As the saying goes in govt. circles, The Eagle takes a dump every 2 weeks so you don't worry about a pay check. As a Retiree you are killing us with these low interest rates the Banks are paying. You have bailed out the banks on the backs of people who did the right thing during their working years by saving as much as they could for retirement. I for one retired at 57 at my own will but many people will never see those early outs any more...wake up sir & start slowing raising the rates you charge banks for money....Just in case you don't know the Banks are not making many loans their hoarding our money that you gave them in the bailout........

August 08 2012 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mary and Alex's comment
mgh406

Your comments were too kind to Bernanke. He does not have a clue as to how the average American lives and especially retired people with moderate income. He doesn't understand that the actual cost of living increases are two to three times as high as reported because of the dishonest way they are figured.

August 11 2012 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
caardvaark

As a 50 something with 3 young adult children, it pains me to see them underemployed and struggling to put food on the table. Diapers are $35 a box. Jobs don't pay enough to justify the cost of child care and gas. Even with the college degrees. Student loans can never be paid back. Such a shame, no wonder one of them left the country.

August 08 2012 at 12:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
j7a1

Your only happy with Bernake if you are rich and one of the 1 percent or a to big to fail bank. Inflation benefits the wealthy and bailouts benefit the bankers and there huge bonuses. The other 99 percent are miserable due to the feds policies. Interest rates pay a 0 percent reward for to those who do the right thing and do not go into huge debt and try to save there money. The inflation in food, gas ,college tuition and medical care is sky rocketing which it due to the feds policy and the politicians and there policies that benefit the corporation only not the poor or middle class. Bernake didn't even think there was a housing bubble in 2005, 6 or 7 and he is the one that's supposed to get us out of this mess? The fed is only worried about the banks not general population. Politicians or only worried about big money special interest and getting reelected. One day when people in this country wake up and demand they take the money out of politics maybe there will be a chance for the poor and middle class.

August 07 2012 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ksmwtm

Banks evaporated money in lies & the FED & Treasury gave citizens money + printed $$$$ and now the banks have money in vaults so there is none floating around to inflate. The "printed money" replaced "Evaporated money"-------any simpleton can reason thru that!

August 07 2012 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ksmwtm

Savings acct. interest is almost zero (0)! Principle is now being spent instead of savings interest, but banks get gifts from the FED! NO! Infact I'm not just not happy---I am UNHAPPY!

August 07 2012 at 3:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Emilio Paletta

Happiness can be elusive in today's society, especially where seniors are concerned. After a lifetime of working with a specified goal in mind, that of living the final days of life in comfort, things are changing for the worst. The nest-egg seniors scrimped and saved for is dwindling rapidly, and it's all because Mr. Bernacke has miscalculated what's best for the economy. His refusal to raise interest rates insisting that inflation is low, is because he's living in a dream world. The price of food, medication, eyeglasses, hearing aides, insurance, gasoline and other items seniors avail themselves of, are going through the ceiling. Yet their savings are depleting rapidly, due of the Fed's "O" interest rate policy.

His thinking, that if rates are low people will buy houses, is delusional at best. The criteria realtors have adhered to for years is as follows. Before an individual even contemplates the thought of entering the housing market, they must have an exemplary credit history. Also as an example, the house they can afford to purchase, should not cost more than 3 times their annual salary. So if a person earns $ 50,000 a year, they should not purchase a house costing more than $150,000. What with taxes, combined with ordinary day to day expenses, it's an almost impossible dream.

So Mr. Bernacke before seniors end up on the welfare rolls, begin slowly raising interest rate, before it's too late.

August 07 2012 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chris1011

I find it funny to read all these comments. The last 4 years have been very good. Inflation has been low and investment opportunities have been superb. Anyone who bought at the bottom in 2009 has now more than doubled their money. And yes, you can get dividends if you invest in dividend paying stocks. In fact, Reits such as Annaly Capital have been paying over 14% now for the last 6 years. Sure you can put your money in a bank, but that's a losing proposition. Banksters know how to bleed you dry while raking in their annual obscene bonuses off the back of your hard earned savings.

Reading your comments I can only come to one conclusion - most of you are clueless losers. And I bet you also voted for your local Tea Party candidates in 2010. Hahahahaha, the joke's on you. Now go ahead and vote Romney in and compound your mistake. No skin off my nose. I'll thrive either way, and you all will pay, muhahaha.

August 07 2012 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply