I Can No Longer Sit on the Sidelines in the Debate Over the Next Fed Chair

August 20th, 2013 at 10:03 pm

“I wouldn’t want Larry Summers to mow my yard.”

That little gem was uttered Monday by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan) in what has to be a fight the White House really doesn’t want to have right now.  They’ve got two very strong candidates in Summers and Janet Yellen, and beyond pointing out that any chance to break a glass ceiling with a highly qualified woman should not be taken lightly, I’ve not weighed in much.

It’s inevitable that this would become a horse race, and while I haven’t been around for that many Fed chair appointments, I don’t remember anything like the frenzy around this choice.

For reasons I can’t readily identify, I find it distasteful and off-putting.  Perhaps it’s that when Senate Republicans blocked Peter Diamond from becoming a Fed governor—he’s a Nobel laureate economist with a deep understanding of the role of the Fed in labor and capital markets—my level of disgust blew a gasket.  Or maybe it’s that trying to discern the differences between the two frontrunners has led to far too much speculation based on far too little real information.

Sen. Roberts comment, however, has raised the bar and I must join the debate.

I would not want Summers to mow my yard either.  When I picture myself sitting in my home office, which overlooks the yard, seeing Larry out there mowing the lawn would be distracting and unsettling.  My neighbors would also find it odd, wondering why a renowned economist was doing my yard work as opposed to me or one of my kids.  And really, what explanation could I give them that would suffice?

To be fair, one must also ask of oneself: how would I feel about Janet Yellen mowing my yard?  This too would feel odd and inappropriate.  At least I know Larry pretty well, and perhaps we could have a good laugh about it.  But if I looked up from my work and saw Yellen mowing away out there, I’m not sure I’d know what to do or what to say to her.

I’ll let the rest of the punditry argue about who would do a better job, considering some of the trimming by the sidewalk and other challenges unique to my lawn.  Me, I’m with the Senator: I don’t really want to see either of them mowing my yard.

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8 comments in reply to "I Can No Longer Sit on the Sidelines in the Debate Over the Next Fed Chair"

  1. Sandwichman says:

    One needs to distinguish between “mowing the yard” and “mowing the lawn.” Assuming that Senator Roberts has trees, flowers and shrubs in his yard, it would indeed be disconcerting to have Summers, Yellen or anyone else out there mowing the whole yard indiscriminately.


  2. foosion says:

    The problem is combination of GOP insanity and Obama passivity and inattention to process.

    GOP insanity is obvious.

    Obama has made many nominations, then said nothing in the face of GOP opposition. Peter Diamond is an excellent example. You’d think that would be an easy PR battle – a Nobel prize winning economist nominated to an important economic position at a time the economy was highly important. Obama said nothing.

    Then Obama announces Bernanke will leave, but doesn’t name a successor. Rumors surface. That’s typical. Gauge the reaction, then move relatively quickly. Even Bush *quickly* abandoned Harriet Miers. As time goes by, positions harden, making a bad situation worse. This time it’s not just GOP opposition, it’s also Dems, economists and markets.

    Remember the importance placed on the bond market by Rubin and his crew? Bond vigilantes, Carville wanting to come back as the bond market and intimidate everyone, etc. Look at what the bond market has done as the odds of Summers have seemingly increased.

    Yellen would be the better choice, both politically and substantively.


  3. Sunset Shazz says:

    When I was an undergraduate, Ricardo’s Theory of Comparative Advantage was explained in one sentence: Michael Jordan shouldn’t mow his own lawn. He might be extraordinarily productive at this task, but his talents are best used elsewhere, leaving a less productive (in absolute terms) person to do his lawn work.

    Don’t understand why an academic of Summers’ pedigree should ever be mowing lawns.


    • Ryan says:

      There are several Republicans that a) I’d pay to see mow my yard, and b) exhibit little by way of comparative advantage with respect to their current day jobs.


  4. mike says:

    I do not think I could afford to pay Larry Summer’s hourly rate.


  5. Shaun Peterson says:

    So that’s all it takes to stop GOP obstructionism? Somebody please mow their lawns.

    “I refuse to raise the debt ceiling until Larry and Janet mow my lawn.”


  6. Dave says:

    Thanks for giving us a good laugh for the week ;-)


  7. Barry says:

    Let me translate this for you, Jared:

    Summers has an extensive track record, of screwing up everything he touches, of being grotesquely wrong in his alleged field of expertise, and extreme corruption.


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