Ben Bernanke doesn’t think enough bankers and corporate executives went to jail for their parts in the great recession that began in 2008 and lasted more than half a decade.
“I think there was a reasonably good chance that, barring stabilization of the financial system, that we could have gone into a 1930s-style depression,” he says in an interview with USA TODAY. “The panic that hit us was enormous — I think the worst in U.S. history.”
Bernanke’s memoir, The Courage to Act, arrives on on Tuesday by W.W. Norton & Co., and in the book he has some thoughts about what went right and what went wrong.
In his writing Bernanke says more corporate executives and bankers should have gone to jail. Instead, the Justice Department and other law-enforcement agencies focused on indicting or threatening to indict financial firms, he notes, “but it would have been my preference to have more investigation of individual action, since obviously everything what went wrong or was illegal was done by some individual, not by an abstract firm.”
While many critics believe the government went to far in bailing out failing companies, Bernanke still continues to stand behind the decision to issue a bailout.
“We were very, very determined not to let it collapse,” he says. “But we were out of bullets at that point.”
He does admit that he could have done more to explain to Americans why the bailout was so important.
“Every time I saw a bumper sticker which said, ‘Where’s my bailout?’ it hurt,” he told Capital Download.
Here’s his full interview with USA Today: