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August 1, 2013

Three big questions for Larry Summers, Janet Yellen, and anyone else who wants to head the Fed

The financial crisis of 2008 and the miserable performance of the US economy since then made the Federal Reserve look bad. And almost everything the Federal Reserve has done since then to try to get the economy back on track—from the role it took in the Wall Street bailouts (detailed in David Wessel’s book In Fed We Trust), to dramatically increasing the money supply, to quantitative easing—has also made the Fed look bad.

Despite how bad the Fed’s performance looks, things could have been worsemuch worse—and I have argued that Ben Bernanke, who led the Fed through this difficult time, should be given a third term as head of the Fed. But as President Obama has made very clear, that is not going to happen.

Now there are rival campaigns for who will follow Bernanke as Fed chief, with former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen as the leading candidates. Ezra Klein has repeatedly written on Wonkblog that Obama’s inner circle favors Summers, and Senate Democrats were galvanized by the prospect to write a letter favoring Yellen, followed a few days later by a New York Times editorial board weighing in strongly for Yellen. Much of the discussion has focused on personality differences that I can verify: Larry Summers was one of my professors in economics graduate school and I had a memorable dinner talking about the economics of happiness with Janet Yellen and her Nobel-laureate-to-be husband George Akerlof when I gave a talk at Berkeley in 2006.”

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Read full Quartz article here

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