A misogynist man who has played a big role in running our economy into the ground is maneuvering to block a talented, experienced woman from taking charge at the Federal Reserve and grab the job for himself.
Larry Summers was drummed out of his office as Harvard University’s president for blatant sexism. In 2005, he announced that women are underrepresented in academic math and science departments because they aren’t as good at those disciplines as men are. Within a year he succumbed to faculty pressure and resigned.
Summers popped up later in Washington, D.C., where he had previously served as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration. Under Obama, he was handed high-level government positions that allowed him to influence policy decisions about the economy. Smart though he may be, he sucked at these jobs.
Now it appears that Summers is a strong candidate to replace Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. According to the Wall St. Journal, the Fed Chair is the most important economic official in the world.
Summers has the support of another former Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, and a number of his male proteges, all of whom have gone from jobs in the government to Citigroup and back again. Not coincidentally, as Fed Chair, Summers would primarily control how the government regulates Citigroup and the other “too big to fail” banking behemoths.
Meanwhile, a woman who through some genetic fluke can actually do math, has been holding down the Fed’s number two spot, learning everything she needs to know to strengthen the U.S. economy. Paul Krugman wrote at the New York Times that, according to the Wall St. Journal, Janet Yellen has “been a highly successful team player at the Fed, has a distinguished record as a research economist on the very issues she would have to deal with as chair, and, according to a recent assessment, has the best forecasting track record of 14 top Fed policymakers.”
The New York Times editorial board agreed. “No one else can match Janet Yellen’s combination of academic credentials and policy-making experience. And no one ever confirmed to the job has come to it with as deep a grounding in both the theory and practice of monetary and regulatory policy as Ms. Yellen would bring.” No one, most definitely including Larry Summers.
So why is Summers being considered instead of Yellen? Because she’s female, and because Summers would protect the banks’ interests over the public’s.
First the sexist part. David Dayen at Salon explains the chauvinistic movement against Yellen:
Summers would get the nod over the previous favorite, Fed vice chair Janet Yellen, in part because top-level officials have stressed to the president that Yellen is somehow “not strong enough” for the job, and would subsequently lack the confidence of financial markets. This gender-coded whisper campaign against the woman who would become the first female Fed chair in history is in line with an undercurrent of sexism about the selection.
Dayen adds that Summers’ backers have branded him “as a ‘more aggressive’ alternative to Yellen, with all the gender-based overtones that carries.” In contrast, Yellen is seen as a “dove.”
The New York Sun opined that if Yellen gets the top Fed post, it will represent the ascendancy of the “gender-backed dollar.” Apparently the dollar is inherently male, and letting a woman get her hands on it would make it all girly. Heaven forfend.
On to the second part — why Summers shouldn’t be in public office at all. The ugly truth is that he isn’t aggressive or strong or remotely trustworthy to perform this job in the public interest. Dayen writes that “on financial regulation, Larry Summers has perhaps the worst track record of any major economic figure in America. And the Federal Reserve plays a key role, perhaps the primary role, in regulating banks [for instance, his buddy Citigroup]… In short, if we wanted to pin the crisis on one person, Summers would be a viable candidate.”
As Salon summarized the matter, “Larry Summers will destroy the economy (again)” if he is appointed to chair the Federal Reserve.
So we have, on the one hand, a male corporate toady with responsibility for our economic crisis, and on the other, a woman who is the most qualified person in the nation for the job. Which one do pundits believe is in the lead? Yep, it’s the man.
I can think of only one advantage of Summers getting control of the Fed: it would give the lie to his idiot argument that few women are among the top mathematicians because they can’t do math, and help prove instead that the sexist glass ceiling is the better explanation for the inequality. Somehow, though, that just isn’t worth it.
Tell Obama to nominate Yellen for Federal Reserve Chairman and not Summers.
Photo credit: Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock
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