The speculation in Washington over who will succeed Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve reminds me a little bit of the speculation last fall over Timothy Geithner’s successor as Treasury Secretary. It was clearly going to be Jack Lew and yet people kept writing “who’s it gonna be?” speculative pieces and capsule bios. By the same token, Janet Yellen—currently vice-chair at the Fed—is clearly going to be the choice.
Ezra Klein has a column out today about the strong odor of sexism around the criticisms you hear of Yellen, and that right there tells you much of what you need to know. Yellen is clearly the best-qualified person for the job, and she has the exact right mix of “is a Democrat” and “is not a Democratic Party operative” to be a Democratic president’s nominee. What would the administration say to its critics if they passed her over in favor of a less-qualified man? That Gene Sperling, Jason Furman, Jack Lew, and Denis McDonough all huddled with Obama and reached the conclusion that Larry Summers was the best man for the job because girls can’t do math? It would be totally ridiculous. The only valid reason to not appoint Yellen would be if the President deliberately wanted to send financial markets a strong signal of non-continuity by doing something like tapping Christina Romer. I happen to think that would be a decent idea, and obviously if your goal is to signal non-continuity then you actually don’t want the “best qualified” person. But Obama’s been president for a long time now and he’s appointed many members of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors and he gives no sign of particularly wanting to see a clean break with Bernanke-era monetary policy. Which means, again, Yellen.
Who else would it be?