Now that America’s finance sector has recovered its health and the wealthiest class feels more secure about its ability to stay wealthy, economist Lawrence Summers announced yesterday that he will resign as head of the National Economic Council later this year. Having successfully guided the nation into a state of jobless recovery , President Obama’s lead economic adviser is turning his attention to job protection: namely, holding on to his own tenured Harvard professorship.
Summers told the New York Times that “he must return to his professorship at Harvard by January to keep his tenure.” Before joining the Obama administration, Summers had also spent extracurricular time working for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw, where he was paid more than $5 million his final year.
Obama adviser David Axelrod described Summers’ willingness to work for the White House as an act of charity by a great man:
“We prevailed on Larry to take a job that generally someone who has been secretary of the Treasury would not have taken, and we did it because it was an extraordinary time and we needed that expertise and that insight,” Mr. Axelrod said. “But everyone knew that he couldn’t stay indefinitely. He ended up staying longer than anybody expected.”
Summers will return to a university that is in an ongoing budget crisis. As Harvard president, earlier in the decade, Summers oversaw the conversion of the school’s endowment into a dangerous tangle of overleveraged and vulnerable investments . Owing to his bad manners, however, Summers got forced out of the presidency for other things before the financial disaster arrived. So he retained his reputation as a financial superhero, rather than a bungler.
The Times reports that Harvard and Cambridge, Massachusetts are still home to Summers:
At Harvard, where Mr. Summers holds the prestigious title of university professor, his colleagues predicted he would liven up the campus and said they would be happy to have him back — so long as he did not take a management job.
“Larry is always a source of lively argument and ideas,” said Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology who had been one of Mr. Summers’s toughest critics, adding, “The Summers presidency ended quite a long time ago, and everybody at Harvard has long since moved on.”