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Jonathan Chait: Fear of a Female Fed Chief: Noted for July 29, 2013

Jonathan Chait: Fear of a Female Fed Chief:

The hard-money cranks of the right have spent the Obama years nurturing fears of incipient inflation that never seems to arrive, yet whose arrival never dents their airtight worldview. The current jostling… as introduced a new and even more primal fear… trepidation that their monetary essence will be drained by a woman…. “Are we entering the era of the gender-backed dollar?” asks the right-wing New York Sun….

Here is how the editorial begins:

James Thurber once drew some cartoons of a woman playing poker. In one, she is seated at a table clutching her cards to her breast, eying the capacious pot, and inquiring, “What do four ones beat?” In another she is glaring across the table, demanding to know, “Why do you keep raising me when you know I’m bluffing?”

It’s funny because women are bad with numbers. What this has to do with Yellen, the Sun doesn’t exactly say. The editors inform us “we were put in mind of the cartoons” by the debate over Yellen as potentially the first Federal Reserve chair, a mental association that tells you a lot about where the Sun is coming from.

The Sun’s point — captured in its headline, “The Female Dollar?” — struck the Wall Street Journal’s editors as so clever as to bear repeating in their own editorial today. Yellen, the Journal concedes, “doesn't lack for professional credentials. But her cause has been taken up by the liberal diversity police as a gender issue because she'd be the first female Fed chairman.” That is a pretty remarkable passage, especially the “but.”… The Journal frets that “Nancy Pelosi has bellowed her support.” Here is Pelosi bellowing her support. I warn you to turn down the volume on your speakers before you play this clip:

The Journal concludes by fretting that the gender debate has obscured the real issues here:

This political Big Top has everything—except a debate over what the Fed actually does…neither Ms. Yellen nor Mr. Summers seems likely to do what should be the next chairman's priority—restoring the Fed's independence by ending its post-crisis political interventions and focusing above all on maintaining price stability.

Here the circle is closed, uniting the Journal’s conviction that Fed appointments must be governed by strict intellectual merit with its conviction that the Fed must be run on the basis of “price stability” rather than “politics.”… The Journal has been waxing hysterical since the outset of the crisis. Inflation was just around the corner, the Journal has screamed. It’s here, it’s here! (For those of you who don’t follow this, it’s not here and has never been here, but the Journal refuses to acknowledge its terrible predictions.)

As it happens, the Journal’s news writers, who frequently infuriate and embarrass their editorial-page colleagues by reporting facts, published a report today measuring which members of the Federal Reserve board have made the most accurate predictions since the crisis…. The highest scoring member — that is, the one whose predictions were most frequently borne out correctly by events — is none other than Janet Yellen.

Given this record, “the female dollar” looks awfully appealing. But it puts a fine point on the gender panic that is now infusing the hard-money cranks. They have constructed a fantasy world in which they sit in their plush leather chairs, calmly defending the rigors of tough-minded empiricism while feminists bellow from the street below. Yellen keeps analyzing the world in a sound and clear-minded way while they bay at the moon.