NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The presumptive Fed Chairman Janet Yellen, white haired and slight of build, ran a competitive half-marathon, 13 miles, 10 years ago when she was a sprightly 57. She'll need all those energies when she takes over the office of the man some say was the greatest Fed chairman in history.
Ben Bernanke, whose term expires in January, led the Federal Reserve through one of its most tumultuous periods in which the nation teetered on the brink of a second Great Depression. Bernanke had studied that crippling time and applied lessons fittingly and decisively. His unconventional rescue program included:
- The bailing out of venerable but stricken banks including the likes of JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Goldman Sachs (GS);
- The forced marriage of institutions too sick to survive alone;
- The opening up the Fed's money spigot, pumping dollars into struggling markets through successive rounds of "quantitative easing," a term the chairman made famous.
- The ratcheting of interest rates to zero percent, the lowest level in history;
- The purchase of billions in mortgage bonds to force rates down and control damage to the ravaged housing industry.
Jim Cramer, co-founder of The Street and host of CNBC's Mad Money, was one of many who judged Bernanke the greatest Fed chairman in history.
"The soft-spoken academic who has toiled in the shadows of his legendarily self-promoting predecessor, Alan Greenspan, will be known as the man who averted the Great Depression Two," he wrote in New York magazine in 2009, "a sequel that could have eliminated the United States as a world financial superpower and reduced us to this century's Britain." (For Cramer's full Bottom Line column, see here)