At first glance it’s hard to see much resemblance between Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Bernie Mac, the comedian. Bernanke is an economist from Princeton University, while Bernie Mac is a television and movie actor whose character in The Bernie Mac Show was ranked #47 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.” Ben Bernanke will occasionally offer a mildly humorous aside in, say, semiannual congressional testimony, but I think he would get trounced in an open mike contest by Bernie Mac, who is #72 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest standups of all time.
So given the considerable differences between them, why do I think Ben Bernanke should be nicknamed Bernie Mac? Simple. Under Bernanke, the Federal Reserve agreed July 13 to allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the twin mortgage-finance giants, borrow from the Fed if need be in an emergency. In essence, then, the Fed is standing behind the obligations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in the same way that Fannie and Freddie guarantee to stand behind the mortgage-backed securities they issue. There is some kind of iron law in Washington that once you get into the loan backing business, you get a silly nickname: Not just Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but Ginnie Mae, Sallie Mae, Farmer Mac, etc., etc.
Earlier this year, after the Fed helped finance the takeover of Bear, Stearns & Co., some people, like James Pethokoukis at U.S. News & World Report, campaigned to nickname the Fed “Feddie.”
But with “Bernie Mac,” you get much more: the spin on Bernanke’s last name, plus the Mac from Freddie Mac, plus the association with the 72nd greatest standup of all time. Bernie Mac it is!
P.S. After I wrote this but before I posted it I trolled the Web to see if anyone had the idea before I did. Here are the closest things I found, a fake news story (hat tip to Daily Kos) and a column, both about Ben Bernanke bailing out the comedian.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.