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Ben Bernanke talks about big banks and baseball

In case you're wondering, Ben Bernanke would "absolutely" take the job of Major League Baseball commissioner if asked.

But the new commissioner, Rob Manfred, is a "solid guy," the former chairman of the Federal Reserve and a die-hard Washington Nationals fan said Wednesday in New York, answering questions from Politico's Ben White.

Asked about Nationals star right fielder Jayson Werth always tipping his hat to Bernanke before heading onto the field for games, Bernanke told the story of Nationals manager Davey Johnson introducing him to players a couple of years ago, with Werth asking him: "So what 's the deal with QE3 anyway?" Bernanke added that Werth clearly possessed a "very, very broad interest in monetary policy."

Lately promoting his new book, "The Courage to Act," Bernanke declined to opine on when the Fed should raise interest rates, explaining he did not want to second-guess his successor, Janet Yellen.

Bernanke also said he's not interested in debating Republican presidential candidate and frequent Fed critic Rand Paul, saying: "I don't think I want to get involved in the Republican presidential primaries."

But the economist was interested in expressing his views on Paul's proposed "Audit the Fed" bill, calling it "deceptively titled."

Bernanke explained that the central bank is already audited by an outside accounting firm, with its books open and accessible to the inspector general and Congress. The sole exception is that the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, "is not allowed to come in and essentially investigate individual monetary policy decisions," Bernanke said.

Rand's proposed measure should be retitled the "Congress Runs Monetary Policy" bill, and then "it would be a more accurate description of what it's about," Bernanke said. "If you love the way they are managing fiscal policy, let them run monetary policy."

In answering a range of questions, Bernanke also said he's perplexed by the fixation of some Democratic presidential hopefuls on reviving the Glass-Steagall Act as a way to regulate or break up financial firms.

"If you look at the actual, what happened a few years ago in the crisis, that Glass-Steagall was pretty irrelevant to it because you had banks like Wachovia or WaMu (Washington Mutual) that went bad because they made bad loans, and you had investment banks like Bear Stearns and Lehman that went bad because of their investment banking activities."

Had the Depression-era measure, which mandated a divide between commercial and investment banking and was repealed in the 1990s, been in place, "it would have had no effect on most of those firms," said Bernanke. Both Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley have pledged to reinstate Glass-Steagall.

"The only major financial institution that Glass-Steagall would have a major effect on is probably Citi," he added.

The trouble with too-big-to-fail banks can be rectified by making it costly to be a big bank, a process already in play, according to Bernanke, who pointed to General Electric's (GE) divesting its financial arm, GE Capital, as an example.

"Banks are now evaluating their size. Some large banks are trying to shrink," said Bernanke. "You put the incentives in the right place, and over time, I think the pressure will be on the banks to simplify."

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