Status Update

I’ve been off my blog grind lately and on my international development grind. As some may be able to tell, I’ve also been listening to a lot of hip hop music, so it may take a while to get my writing style back to a normal place. Gangsta party.

I don’t really want to get too in-depth about anything today, but would like to observe how appallingly little has changed in the world since I last wrote about it. I check the econ blogs and see that inequality is still a buzzword, the financial sector is still improperly regulated,  Republicans still hate the poor, and Miley Cyrus is still twerking. Ok that last one wasn’t covered by the econ blogs, but it’s a pretty hot story right now for whatever reason.

Here in Canada, senators are still being bad, while in the Middle East, Syria is still imploding and the Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been able to come to any sort of deal despite the best efforts of Mr. Kerry. Across the pond, Mark Carney made his first public statement as Governor of the Bank of England, which contained more escape clauses than a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. And so the confusing central bank developments continue.

One story I have been following with genuine interest is the debate around who will succeed Bernanke as Chair of the Federal Reserve. The argument follows a trajectory sort of like this:

1. Someone makes a case for Summers to succeed Bernanke. This person is usually a friend of Summers.

2. Summers supporters are accused of sexism and a case is made for Yellen instead.

3. The Yellen supporter is accused of supporting her only by virtue of her gender, and therefore is also sexist.

4. Mark Carney is dragged into the controversy for saying that talent is being overlooked in the upper echelons of finance and central banking, his evidence being the near-complete absence of women in the upper echelons of finance and central banking.

5. Mark Carney is accused of being sexist like Larry Summers. In fact, anyone who mentions the issue of women’s advancement in finance is sexist and anyone who supports Summers OR Yellen is sexist. In fact, any human who was ever born, anywhere, and who regularly says words and breathes air is sexist.

So that’s where that leaves us, with no obvious successor to Bernanke and no obvious way to encourage women’s advancement in the finance industry. Ignoring the problem doesn’t solve anything, and drawing attention to the problem opens a floodgate of (GASP!) Larry Summers comparisons. Anyone who draws attention to the problem is labelled sexist, which is a wonderful way to stifle debate and perpetuate the status quo.

I’m in the Yellen camp–perhaps unsurprisingly–not because she is a woman, but because she has not shown the reckless hubris and complete lack of moral scruples that personify Summers. Hm where did I see those traits last….oh yeah, Alan Greenspan! Summers is a cad who deregulated asset-backed securities and then when shit got real he dipped, running straight to the private sector, where he had his pick of jobs from the banks he had helped (at the expense of pretty much everyone else) while in government. Yellen is not an asshole. Maybe it’s because she is a woman, but plenty of women are assholes, so we’ll have to ask Judith Butler about that one.

What I will say is that many arguments against Yellen are centered on her outsider status. “Outsider status” seems to me a euphemism for “she does not tolerate the cronyism that is rampant between finance and government.” Again, maybe it’s because she’s a woman, but probably not. In fact, the issue of sexism seems wholly beside the point to me in this debate–the real issue is cronyism. (Though cronyism can be sexist…but that’s another day’s post.) Would someone with Summers’ track record be hired solely based on his professional achievements? Not a chance–he has none of which to speak! He is being considered because he is known and he’s been around that way before. Shame on you, Obama.

And now, lest anyone think I’ve focused on frivolous trifles at the expense of the issues, here is one story that matters for everyone, regardless of gender or interest rate policy preference:

View image on Twitter

It’s great to be back!


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