Janet Yellen Is the Best Pick to Head the Fed, but Larry Summers Might Get the Job

What Women Really Think
July 24 2013 10:33 AM

The Best Candidate for Fed Chair Is a Woman, so Why Consider Larry Summers?

Sure, she's qualified. But is she qualified?

Photo by Monica M. Davey/AFP/Getty Images

Ben Bernanke is set to step down as the chairman of the Federal Reserve in January, leaving President Obama an opportunity to make history by appointing the first female chair of the Fed, a move that would help shatter the image of the financial world as a rigid boys' club. Luckily for Obama, the best-qualified candidate to be Bernanke's successor just happens to be a woman, Janet Yellen. As Shelia Bair of Fortune explains

Amanda Marcotte Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

Certainly, there is no better qualified candidate to fill Bernanke's shoes when he steps down in January. A noted economist, Yellen headed the Council of Economic Advisors for two years; led the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank for six years; and has served ably as Bernanke's Vice Chairman since 2010. Unlike Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Bob Rubin—minions frequently mentioned in the financial press as potential Bernanke successors—she was not part of the deregulatory cabal that got us into the 2008 financial crisis. In fact, she had a solid record as a bank regulator at the San Francisco Fed and was one of the few in the Fed system to sound the alarm on the risks of subprime mortgages in 2007.

Also, we're in an unsteady recovery, so picking the woman instrumental in Bernanke's efforts to stabilize the economy is the best way to keep things moving in the right direction. This is what the econo-nerds call "continuity." So what's the problem? 

Well, as reported last week by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, there's apparently a whisper campaign against Yellen that, in what is surely just a coincidence and totally not related to sexism, just so happens to touch on some claims that evoke ugly, sexist stereotypes about women's supposed inability to handle the world of finance. Klein describes some of the concern trolling he's stumbled across: 

She lacks “toughness.” She’s short on “gravitas.” Too “soft-spoken” or “passive.” Some mused that she is not as aggressively brilliant or intellectually probing as other candidates — though they hasten to say she’s clearly very knowledgeable about monetary policy. Others have wondered whether she could handle the inevitable fights with Congress.

Never mind that she's been doing the job of vice chairman without any of these ladylike attributes getting in her way. Of course, as Klein points out, not all of the worriers are content to express just "airy hunches": Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher complained on CNBC that picking Yellen would be "driven by gender." Oh, he admits she's qualified for the job, but hastened to add, "There are other capable people." Which seems to suggest that Obama should exhaust every male candidate before settling on a female one, a course of action that would not be "driven by gender" because men don't have a gender. 

Things got worse this week when the wizard finally showed his face. On Tuesday Klein wrote a new column, this time saying that, to his utter disbelief, Larry Summers is the frontrunner for the Fed chair. And I've been told that the Summers camp is using the whisper campaign against Yellen to bolster their man's chances with Obama. Yes, the same Larry Summers who condescendingly told a roomful of people who had lived their adult lives as female scientists that women lack the innate abilities to do science. Yes, the same Larry Summers who, unlike Yellen, played an instrumental role in the economic collapse in the first place by consistently backing deregulation schemes that led to the housing bubble and its collapse. If this is the male candidate Obama needs to exhaust before he deigns to consider a female one, well, he should consider Summers exhausted.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?