Bernanke: Governments 'too focused on budget cuts'

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Media captionBen Bernanke: 'Governments over-did austerity'

As the chairman of the US Federal Reserve during the crash and Great Recession, Ben Bernanke is the most influential central banker of our age.

So it matters that he says western politicians expected too much of central bankers over the past few years, and that governments were too obsessed with making budget cuts.

In an interview with me, he says that the administrations of the US, UK and eurozone over-did austerity, with the consequence that the Fed, Bank of England and European Central Bank were forced to engage in extreme monetary stimulus - cuts in interest rates to almost zero and massive money creation through quantitative easing - that many regard as dangerous.

In remarks that will fuel the intense debate between the Labour and Tories in Britain on austerity, he said: "I think politicians have been too focussed on near-term budget cuts in all of these major countries [the US, UK and Europe]".

He added: "Way too much of the burden [of engineering recovery] has been placed on central banks… The central banks are trying to use the tools they have to accomplish their objectives.

"If you had a more balanced monetary/fiscal mix - and I am talking here about the US, as well as Europe and the UK - the central banks could do less."

Ben Bernanke is in the UK to promote his book on his eight years as Fed chairman, The Courage to Act.