The Next Head of the Fed: Who (or What) is Really in Charge?

Remember what it was like getting used to saying Ben Bernanke's last name rather than Alan Greenspan's when Bernanke became the Federal Reserve chairman in February 2006? Now that his name has become second nature, it's almost time to get used to a new name.

But whether President Obama appoints Janet Yellen or someone else to take over in 2014, will the new chairman be able to affect the health of the U.S. economy?

Mass human psychology has undergone numerous shifts between optimism and pessimism throughout U.S. financial history. Just consider the past 50 years or so.

Quick, how many recessions has the United States had in the past half century? The answer is eight. Since 1960, the country has gone through one or two recessions per decade, on average.

-- Washington Post, Aug. 17, 2012

Then there are the seismic shifts in human psychology: The Era of Good Feelings from 1817 to 1825 after the War of 1812 morphed intoAmerica's first deflationary depression between 1835 and 1842. And most of us know about the dramatic transition from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression.