Replacing Summers

By Felix Salmon
September 21, 2010
David Warsh nailed it, back in May: Larry Summers is going to quit his White House position in November, according to Hans Nichols.

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It seems that David Warsh nailed it, back in May: Larry Summers is going to quit his White House position in November, according to Hans Nichols. He’ll probably go back to what he was doing before: a day a week for a hedge fund, a position as University Professor at Harvard, maybe even return to writing his column for the FT. And who will replace him?

Administration officials are weighing whether to put a prominent corporate executive in the NEC director’s job to counter criticism that the administration is anti-business, one person familiar with White House discussions said. White House aides are also eager to name a woman to serve in a high-level position, two people said. They also are concerned finding someone with Summers’ experience and stature, one person said.

The corporate-executive idea is a bit weird: of all the positions in the White House economic team, one would expect the NEC director to actually be an economist. And there aren’t many economists who are also prominent corporate executives. (Actually, I can’t think of any. Readers, help me out here!)

I also very much doubt that the presence of a corporate executive in the White House would have any success at all in countering criticism that the administration is anti-business.

If Obama wants a woman with experience and stature, maybe he can persuade Laura Tyson to come back for another tour of duty? But high-profile economists are hard to find, as is evidenced by the fact that so few of them become corporate executives. Filling the position won’t be hard, but I don’t expect Obama to fill it with someone the public has heard of.

Update: Thanks, readers! Gary Loveman, the CEO of Harrah’s, has a PhD in economics. As does Mohamed El-Erian, the CEO of Pimco.

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