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Former Fed chair Ben Bernanke working on book; will detail '08 financial crisis, recession

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Ben Bernanke, who stepped down last month after eight years as chairman of the Federal Reserve, is planning a memoir.

Bernanke told The Associated Press on Monday that he will focus not just on the defining moment of his time at the Fed, the 2008 financial crisis, but on the "Great Recession" that followed.

"I want people to understand what we knew, when we knew it, how we made decisions and how we dealt with the enormous economic uncertainty," said Bernanke, who expects to begin meeting with publishers within the next several weeks.

Bernanke, 60, says he will cover his entire career at the Fed, starting in 2002, when he joined the Board of Governors. He was appointed chairman in 2006 by President George W. Bush, a Republican, and reappointed four years later by President Barack Obama, a Democrat. A former professor and head of the economics department at Princeton University, Bernanke is currently a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Few Fed chairmen confronted such profound challenges or became so controversial. Under his leadership, the Fed invoked all its conventional tools to salvage the economy. Once those were exhausted, Bernanke turned to extraordinary steps never before tried by the Fed.

Besides cutting a key short-term interest rate to a record low near zero, Bernanke launched a bond buying program that drove the Fed's balance sheet above $4 trillion to try to accelerate growth and shrink high unemployment.

Bernanke was criticized by some liberals — concerned about unemployment — for not doing enough, and by some conservatives — worried about inflation — for doing too much. Bernanke said that the "political environment was pretty hostile at times" and noted that in 2011 he was called a traitor by GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who told a gathering in Iowa that "we would treat him (Bernanke) pretty ugly down in Texas."

"I'd like to be able to explain that it (the Fed's handling of the economy) was the right thing to do, and," Bernanke added with a laugh, "to attest to my loyalty to the United States."

He has spoken about his time at the Fed before; lectures he gave in 2012 at George Washington University were released last year in book form as "The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis."

Last week, the Fed released hundreds of pages of transcripts covering its 14 meetings during 2008 — eight regularly scheduled meetings and six emergency sessions that feature Bernanke's comments throughout.

Bernanke said he had not yet started the book, but had been organizing his thoughts and expected to take about a year to finish. He said he will write the book himself, although he will likely have help with research.

Negotiations with publishers will be handled by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, who also represented Bernanke's predecessor at the Fed, Alan Greenspan. The deal for Greenspan's "The Age of Turbulence," published in 2007, was reportedly worth more than $8 million.

Bernanke's previous books also include "Essays on the Great Depression," published in 2000.

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