Opposition to Summers Ramping Up

It’s hard to believe that Obama could be so utterly tone deaf as to nominate Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve Board, but that appears to be where things are headed. A broad coalition of groups is ramping up an opposition campaign to convince him not to do so.

The opposition so far has been muted, as members of the coalition, who are largely sympathetic to the president, hoped that reports of Summers’ impending nominationwere merely a trial balloon that could be popped without a public battle. But as the White House appears increasingly likely to forge ahead in nominating Summers to the post, his critics are preparing to increase the intensity and volume of their opposition.

The coalition has a variety of reasons for opposing Summers, related both to ideology and to his time as head of Harvard, where he started a conflict with leading African-American professors, oversaw an investment strategy that cost the endowment more than a billion dollars, and was ultimately forced out of his job for suggesting women may be innately inferior to men when it comes to the sciences. And as Treasury secretary in the late 1990s, Summers also led the push to deregulate Wall Street. His opponents worry that his brusque manner will spark a management crisis at the Fed, which could have dramatic consequences for the markets and the broader economy.

Among the critics are economists, women’s groups, good government organizations, high-level donors and online advocates, such as MoveOn.org, CREDO, The Other 98% and Democracy For America, according to participants. The online women’s group UltraViolet, the Campaign for America’s Future and DailyKos are taking a leading role; the National Organization for Women, Mike Lux’s American Family Voices and Color of Change are also said to be among those involved.

“Grassroots progressives are paying close attention to President Obama’s choice here. Larry Summers is a divisive candidate — he’s known for being cozy with Wall Street banks and comments that disparage women, and he’s built a reputation for being hard to work with. If Summers is nominated, I’d expect MoveOn members to work to defeat his nomination in the Senate,” said Anna Galand, head of MoveOn.

Summers was one of the people most responsible for the deregulation of Wall Street during the Clinton administration (yes, Clinton — not Bush, contrary to popular liberal mythology), and most especially for crushing the move to regulate the derivatives market in 1999 and 2000. He thus bears a great deal of responsibility for the collapse of the financial system in 2008. He is absolutely the last person who should be let near that job.

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  • addiepray

    I’d never suggest that liberals aren’t equally prone to unwarranted assumptions and groupthink, but what “popular liberal mythology” are you referring to? I read quite a few liberal blogs, and none of them have the slightest qualm about blaming Clinton for deregulation.

  • colnago80

    If Summers is nominated, it will be interesting to see how the Senate committee before which he will testify handles his nomination. Will they ask the tough questions concerning his ties to Wall Street and his responsibility for the deletion of the Glass–Steagall act. Unfortunately, unless Elizabeth Warren is on the committee, I suspect that the tough questions won’t be asked. And I doubt that the Rethuglicans in the Senate will do much, despite their zest for embarrassing Obama. Best to nip this in the bud.

  • Randomfactor

    I find it sadly easy to believe he’s that tone deaf. There’s a pattern.

  • unbound

    Yeah, the biggest liberal myth is that Democrats are liberal. They haven’t been for at least a generation now. Democrats only appear liberal by comparison to the ultra-conservative Republicans.

  • With the arrogance the Obama administration has exhibited pretty much everywhere else, this is really no surprise to me. Obama is the figurehead of an obscenely arrogant elitist, kleptocratic, racist, sexist Democratic Party, so that he would nominate racist and sexist kleptocrat Democrats seems like a fairly good conclusion to come to. the Democratic Party may be more sophisticated (is more sophisticated) than the Republican Party in their racism and sexism, but it’s still very real. Like McDonald’s Racism vs a Fine French Meal. Obama is a godsend to the Democratic Party: it enables them to say “See, we aren’t racist, we have an African-American in charge!”.

    This is a horrible joke and it’s real life simultaneously. It’s also banal in it’s unsurprising nature. Headlines, this just in: Obama nominates another greedy, sexist, racist, imperialist asshole!

  • brianl

    So what? Obama never has to get elected to anything again. Why does he care if a bunch of peons are annoyed with him? His future employers want Larry Summers in the job, so he’ll get it (unless by some miracle Congress doesn’t approve the appointment).

  • Hey, remember the 90’s?


    (yes, Clinton — not Bush, contrary to popular liberal mythology)”

    To be fair, deregulation was a bipartisan affair.

  • thephilosophicalprimate

    Actually, the common wisdom that Summers was drummed out of Harvard over his sexist bullshit isn’t quite right. Nor did he lose the Harvard gig because of the way his interfering with and overriding the professional financial managers of Harvard’s endowment lost the school more than a billion. Those were certainly a large part of the load that eventually broke the camel’s back, but the final straw that led most directly to even the institutional-reputation-obsessed faculty of Harvard to support the no confidence vote was much more concrete evidence of outright corruption: Here’s the story of how Larry Summers helped shield one of his personal friends and colleagues from the consequences of defrauding the U.S. government.

  • Chiroptera

    (yes, Clinton — not Bush, contrary to popular liberal mythology)

    Is that really a liberal myth? This is a real question. All the liberals I know and the sources I read are well aware of Clinton’s role in deregulation, but I realize I run in a small circle.

  • colnago80

    Re #8

    Considering that he appointed two women to the Supreme Court, I think the allegation of sexism is a little strong.

  • Michael Heath

    First of all, we should be first considering experts on monetary policy, and not experts on fiscal policy, which is Mr. Summers’ area of expertise. Paul Volcker was successful as Chairman of the Fed partly because he was an expert in the area he led.

  • wpjoe

    We need someone who will do the right thing for the people. I get the impression that LS will instead be looking out for the banks and the brokers.

  • raven

    Summers has too much history and baggage to be a good Fed chair.

    They really need someone more objective and less Wall Street than him.

    Bernanke did a great job under pressure and difficult circumstances. Greenspan started strong and fizzled out.

    What did Alan G. in was his great discovery. He could blow bubbles. And when one bubble deflated, he fixed it by blowing another one. When he ran out of bubbles….oops.

  • dingojack

    Perhaps Mr Obama is channelling LBJ:

    ‘I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.’

    Just a thought.


  • John Phillips, FCD

    dingojack, but the splash back is likely to be worse than if he was pissing in.