Bernanke to discuss economy with heartland audience

When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he was available to discuss public concerns with the economy, PBS anchor Jim Lehrer could have simply booked a fancy office and a couple of Queen Anne chairs.

Instead, Lehrer and his "NewsHour" staff decided to hold the conversation in Kansas City — and ask 40 local people to join in the questioning.

"One of the reasons we're doing this out in the country," Lehrer said, "is it just makes more of an electrical exchange possible."

Judging from the electricity generated by talk radio and cable news programs, not to mention on Capitol Hill, there are plenty of people who want to ask questions of Bernanke.

Besides being the man who is the face of the financial-sector bailout, he has come under fire for the Fed's failure to anticipate problems with the mortgage industry that led to the worldwide collapse of credit.

Bernanke's last charm offensive was earlier this year when he agreed to a profile on "60 Minutes." This one, however, will remove the wall between the chairman of the Fed and we the people.

"This is absolutely the first time any Federal Reserve chairman has done this that anyone can remember," Lehrer said, adding his usual cautionary note at the end.


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