Ben Bernanke in peril and the Volcker crackdown on proprietary trading by banks show two truths of the current dispensation: there is no effective hedge against politics and the reflation trade rests on fragile foundations.
Neither of these realities is particularly good for financial markets and neither is going away any time soon.
Both, too, are utterly related not just to each other, but to the Senate election in Massachusetts which installed a Republican into what had been a Kennedy seat, in the process terrifying Democrats who fear they will be sunk by association with a set of policies perceived to be favoring Wall Street.
In the aftermath, President Obama unveiled a policy authored by former Fed chief Paul Volcker, which is intended to make financial firms get out of the business of using government insurance to underwrite speculative bets; well, er, not all speculative bets, but the bad kind.
At the same time the confirmation of Bernanke is under threat, and he and the institution he works for had to endure the humiliation of seeing Senator Harry Reid issue a statement endorsing him but implying that he’d extracted some sort of undertaking from the central banker to “redouble” his efforts to help those struggling in the recovery.