Larry Summers is running hard to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. This is a terrible idea. Once appointed chief of economic policy, Summers with Tim Geithner was a prime architect of propping up and bailing out the biggest banks, rather than cleaning them out and altering the conflicts of interest at the core of Wall Street's business model. Today, the banks are more highly concentrated, more profitable, and less in the business of financing the real economy than ever. This is Larry Summers' legacy. The prime alternative to Summers is Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who is very much like Bernanke, only better. She has gone even further in expressing concern for the economy's persistent unemployment and in criticizing the bipartisan obsession with deficit reduction. Yellen deserves to be Fed chair purely on the merits. It pains me to write that if she gets the job, one other major contrast with Summers will weigh in her favor. She is female.
Sheila Bair thinks maybe the bank bailout was a bad idea. The former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, in a new book about the financial crisis, says she worries that forcing the biggest U.S. banks to take $125 billion in government money in October 2008 caused more problems than it solved.