Is Congress Guilty of Mansplaining to Janet Yellen?

A blog about business and economics.
July 21 2014 1:36 PM

Is Congress Guilty of Mansplaining to Janet Yellen?

468649377-janet-yellen-the-new-federal-reserve-board-chairwoman
Janet Yellen, trying to get a word in edgewise before Congress.

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

While I was off on vacation last week, the Huffington Post put up a brief video titled, “Congress Fawned Over Bernanke, But It Mansplains to Janet Yellen, the First Woman Fed Chair.” The clip juxtaposes Bernanke’s fairly cozy final briefing before the House Financial Services Committee—Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican, called him “one of the most able public servants I have ever met”—with some of the snide treatment Yellen received last Wednesday. Much of it consists of Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan, who in a past life ran a family gravel-making business, talking over her and implying that she hasn’t read enough about the pros and cons of rule-based monetary policy. Nothing quite like watching a congressional backbencher half-coherently lecture America’s most powerful woman, eh Bill?

I do think that Yellen’s term atop the Fed is going to be an interesting experiment in gender politics. While there are somewhat substantive reasons why Republicans may dislike her more than they did Bernanke—she’s arguably more vocal about the central bank’s role in combating unemployment, which grates on the conservatives who would prefer the central bank to focus monomaniacally on minimizing inflation—she’s largely continued his policy approach. If Congress consistently treats Yellen with less respect than her predecessor, it’s going to look like sexism at work

Advertisement

(Worth noting: Huizenga’s attempts to score points off Bernanke seem to have been far less aggressive. Then again, the man is serving only his second term. He may just be learning that condescension is a good way to fake fluency in economics.)

That said, some of what’s going on in the video is just garden variety grandstanding, which contrary to what the clip implies, Bernanke was subjected to regularly. Here, for instance, is Rep. Keith Rothfus during Bernanke’s last testimony trying to get the Fed chair to admit that quantitative easing is just reckless money printing (shockingly, Bernanke thought differently).

Sometimes, a blow-hard politician is just a blow-hard politician.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.