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Bernanke Heads to Brookings’ New Economic Center

When ex-Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke told reporters in December he planned to stay in Washington “for a bit of time,” he was giving credible forward guidance about his next career move.

Bernanke, who is widely credited with saving the economy from deeper calamity after the Great Recession, announced Monday that he was joining the Brookings Institution’s economic studies program as a distinguished fellow in residence.

Bernanke clearly wasn’t looking for much post-Fed downtime: He started his new gig Monday after leaving the central bank on Friday at the end of his second term as chairman.

Bernanke will be affiliated with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, according to a statement from Brookings. Brookings launched the Hutchins Center on Jan. 16 after receiving a $10 million grant from the Hutchins Family Foundation. The foundation is endowed by Glenn Hutchins, co-founder of Silver Lake, a private equity firm.

“He was sworn in as Fed chairman in early 2006 unaware that fissures were opening in the foundations of the U.S. economy and financial system,” wrote David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center, in a blog post Monday. “Two years later, he was rescuer-in-chief during the worst financial crisis in 75 years.”

Bernanke also previously served as chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers during the George W. Bush administration. He was a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton starting in 1985 and the Great Depression was a particular focus of his academic work.

“We are proud to welcome Chairman Bernanke into the Brookings family,” said Brookings President Strobe Talbott, in a press statement. “His firm, steady hand at the Fed’s tiller came at a crucial time in our nation’s history, including during the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression. We know he’ll bring insights from his tenure at the Fed to his work at Brookings, which will be particularly valuable and timely given heightened attention to monetary policy and the recent launch of the Hutchins Center.”

Bernanke lauded Brookings for contributing “innovative ideas and trenchant analysis” to public policy debates. “I welcome the opportunity to engage in that vibrant community through research and writing,” he said.

Bernanke’s route from the Fed to Brookings is not uncharted. Longtime Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr. was a member of the Brookings Board of Trustees from 1970-1997. Currently, Alice Rivlin and Donald Kohn, both former Federal Reserve vice chairs, are senior fellows in the economic studies program.