U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke never intended his latest stimulus program, QE3, to become an issue in the 2012 presidential election, but he had to know what would happen.
"We have tried very, very hard, and I think we've been successful...to be nonpartisan and apolitical," Bernanke said at a news conference Thursday after the official Fed announcement of QE3. "We make our decisions based entirely on the state of the economy....So we just don't take those [political] factors into account. And we think that's the best way to maintain our independence and maintain the trust of the public."
In case you missed it, the Fed's third round of quantitative easing entails the purchase of $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month until unemployment shows a marked improvement.
In other words, for as long as it takes.
But with QE3 arriving less than 60 days before a bitterly contested presidential election, the Fed move was bound to get caught up in the campaign.
Both sides reacted immediately, with Republicans criticizing QE3 as unnecessary while Democrats applauded.
A few Republicans even accused Bernanke of timing QE3 intentionally to boost President Obama's re-election chances.
For the record, Bernanke is himself a Republican, appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve by President George W. Bush in 2006 and re-appointed by President Obama in 2010.
But with the Fed becoming a GOP bogeyman in recent years (thanks largely to the attacks from Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX), QE3 was bound to become weaponized in this year's increasingly acrimonious campaign.
Don't be fooled when each political party throws out the following QE3-fueled lines to get your vote.