MacroScope

Back when Yellen and Summers had the same boss

With all the back-and-forth in the Yellen versus Summers Fed chair showdown, it’s easy to forget that the two once played for the same team – the Clinton administration.

This incredible photo from the Reuters archive features many of the key players in U.S. economic policy over the last two decades, tracing the arch of the 1990s tech boom, the early 2000s housing surge and the financial crisis of 2008-2009. They include Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, then advisor to Clinton, and Larry Summers, then Deputy Treasury Secretary. Both are now seen as leading candidates to replace Ben Bernanke as Fed chair next year.

Also pictured are Treasury Secretary and Citigroup magnate Robert Rubin; budget director and eventual Fannie Mae chief Franklin Raines; chief of staff Erskin Bowles, who became famous for the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan; national economic council director Gene Sperling, currently an advisor to President Barack Obama; and Jack Lew, current Treasury Secretary, who was the deputy director of the office of management and budget.

Plus ca change.

Obama’s second chance to reshape the Fed

Lost in the bizarre Yellen vs. Summers tug-of-war into which the debate over the next Federal Reserve Chairman has devolved, is the notion that President Barack Obama is getting a second shot at revamping the U.S. central bank.

The perk of a two-term president, Obama will get to appoint another three, potentially four officials to the Fed’s influential seven-member board of governors in Washington. This may buy the president some political wiggle room when it comes to his pick for Fed chair, since he might be able to placate Republicans with one or two “concession” appointments. Every Fed governor gets a permanent voting seat on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.

Elizabeth Duke, the last George W. Bush appointee, is already on her way out. So is Sarah Bloom Raskin, who after a relatively short stint at the board is moving to the Treasury, to be Jack Lew’s Deputy Secretary. Then there’s the awkward suspicion that, if Obama passes up Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, by far the favorite for the top spot, she will also step down after a long career in the Federal Reserve system, including many years as head of the San Francisco Fed.

Stimulus now can ease debt burden later: DeLong and Summers

Spend more now, save more later. It may sound somewhat counterintuitive, but it’s the best prescription for getting out of deep economic ruts, according to a new paper from Bradford DeLong and Lawrence Summers, former economic policymakers now in academia.

In particular, the economists focus on the notion of hysteresis, which is a state where a prolonged period of economic retrenchment and high long-term unemployment creates new types of structural barriers to reintegrating the jobless back into the labor market. It thereby does lasting damage to the economy’s potential rate of growth.

Against this backdrop, DeLong and Summers argue a highly stimulative fiscal policy can actually reduce the long-term debt burden. They argue vigorously against policies of austerity, saying they are self-defeating and ultimately may actually worsen a country’s debt profile.