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NEW YORK, Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- In the most anticipated issue of the year, out Friday and now on TIME.com, TIME names United States Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke the 2009 Person of the Year. TIME's Person of the Year issue has the first full, on-the-record print interview with Bernanke since he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
PLUS: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS WITH PERSON OF THE YEAR RUNNERS UP: #2 GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, #3 "THE CHINESE WORKER," #4 NANCY PELOSI AND #5 USAIN BOLT
EXCLUSIVE: IN A SERIES OF THREE INTERVIEWS, BERNANKE TELLS TIME:
On the financial crisis: "We came very, very close to a depression...The markets were in anaphylactic shock. I'm not happy with where we are, but it's a lot better than where we could be...Of course there were things we could have done better, but this was a perfect storm."
On unemployment: "The additional steps aren't as obvious or clear as the ones we've already taken. It's an enormous problem. There aren't easy solutions."
On questions about his handling of Lehman, AIG and Bear Stearns: "It's the price of success: people start to think you're omnipotent. We say we didn't have the authority, and it's 'Oh, you're the Fed. You could've come up with something.'"
Bernanke tells TIME that major financial crises generally cost nations 5% to 20% of their national output. This panic seems likely to cost the U.S. a fraction of 1%. "How much would you pay to avoid a second Depression?" Bernanke asks. "I mean, this is a pretty good return on investment."
On his background: "I'm not one of those people who look at this as some kind of video game. I come from Main Street, from a small town that's really depressed. This is all very real to me."
On banker pay: "I think that bankers ought to recognize that the government and the taxpayer saved the financial system from utter collapse last year. And in recognizing that, I would think that bankers ought to look in the mirror and decide that perhaps there should be some more restraint in how much they pay themselves, given what the government and the taxpayer did to protect the system."
TIME MANAGING EDITOR RICHARD STENGEL AND TIME SENIOR WRITER MICHAEL GRUNWALD, WHO CONDUCTED THE INTERVIEWS WITH BERNANKE, WRITE OF THE CHOICE:
STENGEL: "The recession was the story of the year. Without Ben Bernanke, TIME's 2009 Person of the Year, it would have been a lot worse....We've rarely had such a perfect revision of the cliche that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Bernanke didn't just learn from history; he wrote it himself and was damned if he was going to repeat it."
GRUNWALD: "The main reason Ben Shalom Bernanke is TIME's Person of the Year for 2009 is that he is the most important player guiding the world's most important economy. His creative leadership helped ensure that 2009 was a period of weak recovery rather than catastrophic depression, and he still wields unrivaled power over our money, our jobs, our savings and our national future."
PLUS: FORMER FED CHAIRMAN ALAN GREENSPAN AND FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY HENRY PAULSON ON BERNANKE:
Greenspan tells TIME: "Ben and I have never had a serious disagreement."
Paulson tells TIME: "I shudder to think what the world would be like if Ben hadn't been running the Fed. It's just hard to explain that yes, we're in deep doo-doo, but we would have been in much deeper doo-doo."
THE PERSON OF THE YEAR COVER:
Artist Mark Summers created the iconic TIME cover image of Person of the Year Ben Bernanke on the dollar by a scratchboard process, in which he starts with a black surface and then scratches white lines into it. The finished work is scanned and printed onto photographic paper.
#2 GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL to TIME's Joe Klein:
On Afghanistan, "I arrived thinking that we wouldn't need additional forces. But as I traveled around, I began to get the sense that the problem was much worse than the obvious symptoms, the level of violence. We analyzed, we calculated, we war-gamed and came to the conclusion we needed more troops."
On his reported tension with the Administration: "It was more a misunderstanding than anything ... I've been deeply impressed by the President's personal involvement during the Afghan-strategy-review process ... He's not only allowed my personal assessments; he's demanded that I say what I think."
General Petraeus tells TIME: "Stan was absolutely my No. 1 choice to lead the Afghanistan mission. He was everyone's No. 1 choice."
#3 THE CHINESE WORKER
TIME's Austin Ramzy explains, "This year, [China's economy] remains the world's fastest-growing major economy -- and an economic stimulus for everyone else. Who deserves the credit? Above all, the tens of millions of workers who have left their homes, and often their families, to find work in the factories of China's booming coastal cities.
TIME interviews five factory workers who are helping lead the world to economic recovery.
#4 NANCY PELOSI to TIME's Karen Tumulty:
On getting her leadership position, "It wasn't well received at first. People thought, 'That's her way. That's not the way we do things here.' But [I thought], You lose. And I know how to win."
On passing the climate-change legislation in June, which Pelosi calls "my flagship issue": "I never thought for one minute that we wouldn't win. Never."
On the White House and Congress moving up their timetable for a new jobs package: "Our members go home every week. They put their hand on a very, very hot stove -- the concerns of their constituents. I kind of insisted because I don't see how we can not do something before the end of the year. It takes a long time, as we have seen, for legislation to turn into a paycheck."
#5 USAIN BOLT to TIME's Sean Gregory:
On breaking both the 100 and 200 m records in Berlin: "I wasn't all that surprised about the 100. I knew it was going to be a fast race. But the 200 one, I was like, 'Whoa!' That caught me off guard."
On partying: "I explain to people that I'm still young. I'm going to go out and enjoy myself. If that's going to be a problem, that's their problem."
On what's next: "Breaking barriers is my thing. I've been doing it since I was young, just setting the standards for a lot of people. I'll keep trying to break barriers and make the world happy."
The December 28, 2009 Person of the Year issue of TIME goes on sale on Friday, December 18.