I have always liked Larry Summers, for various reasons: his incomparable knowledge of economics; his massive brain; his constitutional inability to mouth conventional nonsense; his amazing intellectual courage; and the identities of his enemies. I can’t think of anything that he has said or done that I have disagreed with.
He was literally bred for the job of Chairman of the Federal Reserve: when you mate two very smart professors of economics, you get one very smart professor of economics. He has a solid-gold resume: MIT at 16; Harvard PhD; youngest tenured Harvard professor in history; president of the World Bank; deputy treasury secretary under Bob Rubin; treasury secretary under Clinton; president of Harvard; director of the National Economic Council under Obama. Unqualified?
Politically, Summers is a Democrat, but his economics are decidedly and outspokenly free-market. He gives the markets and businesses confidence when he serves under Democratic presidents. During the Clinton years, Summers and Rubin balanced the federal budget while growing the economy for eight years. Under their stewardship the economy grew by one-third and the Dow rose from 3000 to 11000. Summers has successfully dealt with a number of major financial crises. He would be a masterful appointment that would help to demonstrate the president’s seriousness when it comes to the economy and financial stability.
Plus there is the whole matter of his sheer entertainment value. Larry Summers is no consensus-seeking middle-of-the-roader; he loves a good argument. I would enjoy seeing him as Chairman, telling colleagues, congressmen and the media where to get off, tartly and succinctly.
I like Janet Yellen, and I agree with her monetary views. But I have no reason to believe that she is a forceful or dominant personality. She strikes me as a nice person who would seek comity and consensus, which is the very last thing the FOMC needs right now. Another round of Kumbaya at the FOMC and we’ll have no growth at all. We need a Chairman with strong opinions who will kick ass and take names. That’s Summers, famously unfamous for his niceness or collegiality.
The president certainly knows and trusts Summers, and Jack Lew has worked with him in two administrations. They know what they will get with him: brilliance and controversy. Will the Legion of Political Correctness get a veto over Summers’ appointment? Let’s hope that his sheer ability counts more than our nation's obeisance to the absurd notion that all humans have exactly equal aptitudes and IQs.