Bernanke to Congress: Don't mess up again. Please.

@CNNMoney August 26, 2011: 12:52 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Remember that crazy, bitter debt-ceiling debate this summer? The one that created a half-baked debt reduction plan and led to the country's first-ever credit-rating downgrade?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke certainly does. And he had a simple message for Congress on Friday: Don't do it again. Seriously. Never, ever, ever again.

His reasoning: All that legislative brinksmanship hurt the economy.

"The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well, and similar events in the future could, over time, seriously jeopardize the willingness of investors around the world to hold U.S. financial assets or to make direct investments in job-creating U.S. businesses." Bernanke said in his annual Jackson Hole speech.

Bernanke also offered some free advice to lawmakers: Reducing the debt should be an urgent priority, but not at the expense of the economy.

Bernanke pledges Fed support, but notes limits

"Fiscal policymakers should not ... disregard the fragility of the current economic recovery. Fortunately, the two goals of achieving fiscal sustainability -- which is the result of responsible policies set in place for the longer term -- and avoiding the creation of fiscal headwinds for the current recovery are not incompatible," Bernanke said.

His suggestion: put in place a credible plan to reduce deficits over time, but also support policies that can boost the chances for near-term economic growth.

That echoed a similar message this week from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf.

Weak growth. Monster debt. Which to tackle first?

Given the already slow economic recovery and the fact that interest rates can't fall much farther, "reductions in government spending or an increase in taxes ... will slow economic growth and reduce employment," Elmendorf said in a meeting with reporters.

Bernanke did end on a positive note ... sort of. He acknowledged that economic policymakers have a tough job balancing the need to support economic recovery now while also tackling long-term debt.

"I have no doubt, however, that those challenges can be met and that the fundamental strengths of our economy will ultimately reassert themselves," he said.

He then went on to pledge that the Fed will "do all that it can" to help in that process. But that also means that the Fed alone can't single-handedly bolster the economy, and Congress will need to step up.

Lawmakers will have their chance after Labor Day, when President Obama is expected to unveil proposals for creating jobs, and the newly created "Super Committee" will begin negotiations to come up with $1.5 trillion in debt reduction, if not more. To top of page

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