It's Groundhog Day, for Ben Bernanke and Punxsutawney Phil
Simple: Both are forecasters, paid to see the future.
OK, maybe that's a bit too simple. As Fed chairman, Bernanke is paid not only to see the future but to shape that future. While Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog (or woodchuck, if you prefer), is paid just to tell us how much longer winter will last (and to draw tourists to Punxsutawney, Pa., but let's not be cynical on such a nice day).
So, recapping Thursday's events for the overstressed news consumer:
Punxsutawney Phil came out (OK, was lifted out by handlers) and saw his shadow, presaging six more weeks of winter. Or, in the colorful language of one of the Inner Circle of handlers:
After casting an appreciative glance to the thousands of faithful followers in attendance, Phil proclaimed, "As I look at the crowd on Gobbler's Knob, many shadows do I see. Six more weeks of winter it must be."
Naturally, there were some boo birds in the crowd.
Bernanke came to a different knob -- Capitol Hill -- (presumably on his own, though given the Republican sentiment in Congress, perhaps he too was dragged there by handlers) and told the House Budget Committee that the economic recovery is "frustratingly slow" and that there are "significant head winds" facing consumers and the broader economy.
Not exactly "six more weeks of winter," but we get the picture.
No booing was reported, though.
By this time, Bernanke must be starting to feel another kind of kinship with Punxsutawney Phil: the movie "Groundhog Day." Just as Bill Murray's character in the movie is forced to relive Groundhog Day day after day, Bernanke must periodically go before Congress and say pretty much the same things.
As The Times reported:
Bernanke repeated that it was important for policymakers not to make spending and tax policies that would hurt the current economic recovery. And he urged lawmakers to get past the political divisions to solve the long-term debt problems.
"I realize politics is a tough game," he said, but it's important to show "cooperation and collaboration" in addressing the nation's large debts.
So, in the spirit of the day, here's a little forecast of my own: That will happen -- when hell freezes over.
Photo: Handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Credit: Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press