Janet Yellen, vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Bank, speaks at the Economic Club of New York (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In a ceremony scheduled for 3 pm today, President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. If appointed, she will become the first woman ever to hold the post, a considerable accomplishment in a field that has remained stubbornly male-dominated. Her nomination comes after President Obama’s presumed first pick, Larry Summers, withdrew from consideration amid intense opposition to his appointment. The former Treasury secretary’s support of the deregulation policies that lead to the financial crisis—The Nation’s William Greider said that his appointment would be akin to “rewarding the same guys who got things disastrously wrong for the country”—and comments implying women were naturally less apt in science and math lead progressive and women’s rights organizations to mount a successful fight against his nomination.
The Nation played a role in this campaign, joining groups such as the National Organization for Women and Daily Kos, as well as a number of Democratic senators. We began with a petition demanding that the president reject Summers, then followed it up with one calling on him to “Break Up the Old Boys’ Club” and appoint Yellen. All together, we garnered over 10,000 signatures, many from readers who expressed disappointment that a president they fought to get elected would appoint someone so closely aligned with the policies that crashed our economy.
Supporters of Yellen’s nomination have expressed hope that she will make addressing our unemployment crisis a top priority and have noted her prescience in raising concerns about the housing bubble before many were aware of the danger. Still, others have pointed out that her policies skew close to those of the centrist wing of Democratic party—in the 1990s, she backed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, advocated for cutting Social Security through Chained-CPI and supported the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In a blog post responding to Summers’ decision to withdraw his name from consideration, Greider pointed out that Yellen “well understands that much deeper change must be considered to get the US economy back in balance” and summed up the significance of the role progressives had already played in the nomination process:
But the defeat of Larry Summers tells the White House and this president they had better start listening to the restless reformers on the left of the party. Senators and progressive Democrats in the House have serious ideas for reform. Having won this pivotal victory, they are sure to push for larger goals. Instead of running away from the liberal-labor progressives, Obama’s presidency should put an arm around them.
Janet Yellen’s nomination speaks well to the president’s commitment to addressing the nation’s unemployment crisis. Now progressives must keep the pressure on the administration to fight for an economy that works for all of us.