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In a Slap in the Face to Progressives, Biden Appoints Larry Summers, a “Literal Architect of Neoliberalism,” to Economic Advisory Role

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In a Slap in the Face to Progressives, Biden Appoints Larry Summers, a “Literal Architect of Neoliberalism,” to Economic Advisory Role


Yves here. Larry Summers watchers may recall our piece, Why Larry Summers Should Not Be Permitted to Run Anything More Important than a Dog Pound. Summers had put his hat in the ring to become Fed chairman, which elicited an impressive level of negative coverage. So memories have now faded enough that Summers be allowed to hold an important domestic role again?

In fairness, Summers has attempted some rehabilitation, and now regularly takes positions to the left of the former boundary-setter of the limits of Goodthinking Liberal policy, Paul Krugman. Not that that stands for much.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

Over the past three decades, Summers has amassed a policy record of almost unrivaled social ruin.
—Zach Carter, Huffington Post

In a slap in the face to progressives, Joe Biden, who has already announced that if he’s elected “nothing would fundamentally change,” has appointed the head of Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, Larry Summers, as a key adviser to his campaign.

From Bloomberg, which occasionally still reports the news (emphasis added):

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on economic policy, including its plans to revive the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic, according to five people familiar with his involvement.

The Obama and Clinton administration veteran’s role roiled progressives who view his past work on the 2009 recovery as too favorable to big banks. That’s awkward for the Biden campaign at a time when it is trying to win the trust of former supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Five people confirming is a deliberate leak, especially since non of them are said to be “unauthorized to speak about the matter.”

Progressive groups are aghast, of course:

Two Sanders-aligned groups, Justice Democrats and Sunrise Movement, said Friday they “hope Biden publicleconomic y rejects Summers’s role as an economic adviser to better earn the trust of our generation.” They said they also plan to start a petition calling on Biden to pledge to exclude Summers from his transition team or administration.

Larry Summers’s legacy is advocating for policies that contributed to the skyrocketing inequality and climate crisiswe’re living with today,” the groups said in a joint statement.

Summers is such a bad choice for the campaign to be aligned with that The American Prospect writer Robert Kuttner put Summers at the top of his “do not re-appoint” list.

But as Rising’s Saagar Enjeti points out, the real group that Biden needs to assure isn’t Progressive Avenue, or even Main Street — it’s Wall Street — and leaking via five sources to Bloomberg News that Summers is now in Biden’s inner circle does just that. As Bloomberg put it, with this move Biden has “offered some reassurance [to] Wall Street that Biden is not moving too far to the left from the centrist positions that earned him his establishment support.”

I’m not if sure this will get him elected, but it is certain to be noticed, even by not-well-read voters who nonetheless care about the direction of the country. Summers was a marquee name in the Obama administration. As Robert Kuttner points out:

Under Clinton, Summers was a prime architect and huge enthusiast of what proved to be fatal financial deregulation. He was also in charge of Clinton’s economic policy for post-Soviet Russia, and was responsible for pushing for early and catastrophic privatization of state assets, a fire sale that led directly to the creation of Russia’s oligarchs. As president of Harvard, he proved to be both arrogant and sexist, to the point where he got himself fired. …

[As Obama’s chief economic advisor, Summers] not only lowballed the necessary economic stimulus and ended it prematurely, but he successfully fought for rescuing the biggest banks rather than taking them into temporary receivership. Back at Harvard, Summers earns over $600,000 as a university professor but also moonlights at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw, where his compensation is well into the seven figures. (Some would say he moonlights at Harvard.)

There are so many ways that Summers is a bad choice, it’s difficult to enumerate them, though both Kuttner and the HuffPost’s Zach Carter try. (Carter: “Over the past three decades, Summers has amassed a policy record of almost unrivaled social ruin.” Then he lists the ways.)

It’s sufficient to say that his appointment is the economic-policy equivalent of bringing in Rahm Emanuel, who famously called liberals “fucking retarded,” to handle the Biden’s relationship with progressive groups.

If Larry Summers’ appointment is part of the mainstream Democratic plan to unite the Party and rally “change voters” behind the Biden candidacy, good luck.

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