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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke tried to walk a fine line in his speech Friday: He insisted that the central bank doesn’t believe the economy will fall into another recession, but the Fed will react quickly if a downturn seems more likely.

With short-term interest rates already near zero, Bernanke indicated that the Fed could do more to ease credit conditions elsewhere in the financial system — mainly, by trying to pull longer-term interest rates lower.

But of course, even longer-term rates already are very low by historical standards. The average 30-year mortgage rate is at 4.36%, the cheapest in at least a generation.

So this is the plan, lower interest rates. I was hoping for something more positive.

Here’s one economists’ reactions to Bernanke’s speech:

Robert Brusca, Fact & Opinion Economics: Imagine a real doctor saying this to you: Well, your leg is injured and it is healing slowly — more slowly than we had expected. But it is healing and we expect it to continue to heal. However, if it does not heal you could be at risk and we might have to amputate. Now, of course, that would be bad and we do not expect to do that but in the case that we do amputate it would be a good thing because we only do it to save your life and shield you from the spread of something like gangrene that is life threatening. So in that case it would be good and desirable and it is an option. Does that reassure you?

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