Good luck, Ben. You're going to need it.

After all, there's nothing you can really do about the biggest problem you'll face when you take over as chairman of the Federal Reserve in January 2006. That problem: You're not Alan Greenspan.

Bernanke will inherit all the problems created by Greenspan's 18-year legacy of loose money, problems that are finally building toward some kind of crisis. But what he won't inherit is Wall Street's overwhelming faith that Greenspan will defuse any potential market bomb before it blows up. The financial markets, while wishing Bernanke success, will be nervously waiting for him to foul up. Nervous markets, of course, have a tendency to turn a minor blip into a major crisis of confidence.

Market commentator Bill Fleckenstein isn't a big Greenspan fan. In fact, he called him "the worst Fed chairman, ever."

Unfortunately for the stock and bond markets, for investors and for Ben Bernanke, Wall Street doesn't agree. Think how much easier Bernanke's job would be if everyone on Wall Street thought like Fleckenstein. The investment bankers, the brokers and the traders would still be out cheering President Bush's announcement of Bernanke's nomination. Thank God, the market would be saying, we're getting rid of that Greenspan turkey.

Forget about the 170-point rally that occurred as news of Bernanke's nomination leaked to the press on Monday morning. We'd be looking at 500 points up on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, no sweat.

But the prevailing opinion on Wall Street is exactly the opposite from Fleckenstein's. According to the majority view, Alan Greenspan is the best Fed chairman, ever.

Greenspan to the Rescue

His fans point to Greenspan's record since he took over as Fed chairman in August 1987. Start with the recession and inflation records. There's been only one recession (defined by many economists as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth), when the economy shrank by 3% in the fourth quarter of 1990 and 2% in the first quarter of 1991.

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