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.