Feb

27

 The Chairman of the Fed is known for her wit and wisdom. One thought it useful to memorialize some of her wit on a continuing basis. We hereby inaugurate a compilation of her "Sublime Jokes" so as to gain gravitas from her the same way her colleagues and supporters in the press who always admire her sense of humor.

Please feel free to augment this list with other examples of her hilarious remarks.

Janet Yellen's humor:

1.

But even as she pushed for more aggressive policies to deal with the financial crisis [of 2008] and the economic downturn, Ms. Yellen also displayed an ability to disarm her critics with a sort of gallows humor, even in the darkest days. "In the run-up to Halloween, we have had a witch's brew of news," she said to the laughter of her colleagues, before quickly apologizing for her sarcasm.

2.

As a forecaster, Ms. Yellen was at something of an advantage. She was based in California, where some of the earliest signs of distress appeared. In a lighter moment, she joked that the problems were not just in the collapsing housing market.

"East Bay plastic surgeons and dentists note that patients are deferring elective procedures," she said to laughter, according to a transcript of the meeting on Sept. 16, 2008.

"The Silicon Valley Country Club, with a $250,000 entrance fee and seven- to eight-year waiting list, has seen the number of would-be new members shrink to a mere 13," she said to more laughter.

But she also was looking for clues anywhere she could find them. In June, she told her colleagues about employees at her bank who "had their home equity lines slashed."

"One has deferred a planned home renovation project as a consequence," she said. "If that is happening to them, I can only imagine how hard it must be to get a loan if you have a merely average credit rating."

"Sales of cheap wine are soaring," Yellen reported to the Fed on March 8, a week before Bear Stearns collapsed

3.


Yellen, unlike Greenspan or a pre-2008 Bernanke, is probably the last person you'd hear repeating one of Reagan's favorite jokes: "The nine scariest words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'


4.

Yellen is humorous. In the recently released transcript of the Dec. 16, 2008, FOMC meeting, she said: "An accounting joke concerning the balance sheets of many financial institutions is now making the rounds, and it summarizes the situation as follows: On the left-hand side, nothing is right; and on the right-hand side, nothing is left."

Charles Pennington adds: 

 This morning I began the process of picking out items of praise from
the link below, but it's lunchtime now so I'll have to adjourn for
awhile.

from "What Janet Yellen will do with the nation's purse":

She's ultrasmart but also ultramethodical

Yellen was not ordinary, even as valedictorians go.

Yellen is inclined to ask probing questions and to be interested in people even as she grapples with abstract ideas.

Yellen
revealed not so much a combative personality as someone prone to get to
the point and to avoid becoming too proud of her own intellect.

wanting to think through problems from every angle and with an open mind.

brilliant and a hard worker,"

"I don't think she ever just got along on brilliance."

Her thorough, skip-no-detail approach will be tested in the years ahead

Arguably no individual will have more influence over financial conditions for American families.

"The Fed is the only game in town,"

For
Yellen, that will mean navigating a difficult course from the moment
she occupies the head chair in the Fed's ornate conference room in
Washington: trying to move the economy toward more solid growth while
also backing the central bank off its stimulative policy of holding
short-term interest rates at zero. This will affect everything from
unemployment to inflation to stock market portfolios.

One of Yellen's challenges will be to defend the notion that the Fed serves all the American people

even Republicans don't doubt she has the résumé for the position.

 Her career path has led her from prominent teaching positions to varied roles in the Federal Reserve System.

Some have called her the best qualified nominee ever.

Yellen will be the first woman to head America's top financial policymaking post.

Although
Yellen has said in the past that she hasn't felt discrimination during
her career, finance remains a male-dominated realm in America. Her
elevation carries both substantive and symbolic importance.

"every time a glass ceiling is broken it sends a signal that government is more inclusive"

Yellen
once accompanied her parents on a transatlantic summer cruise. A
highlight for Yellen, then in high school, had to do with learning about
rocks. A geologist on board, thrilled to meet a young person with a
keen interest in his field, presented her with a trilobite fossil.

She
already had a credible rock collection. But instead of eagerly adding
the fossil..to her personal stash, Yellen loaned it to the biology lab
at her school so that others could learn from it, too.

Exploration was a kind of family trademark during her time growing up

"They had inquiring minds,"

The melting pot of New York City was itself a kind of global microcosm of arts, sciences, and culture…Yellen took it all in.

[family outings] included plays, concerts, or science lectures

Yellen's
youth wasn't all about igneous rocks and high-brow culture…one of
those concerts that they went to featured a young songwriter coming out
of the folk tradition, named Bob Dylan.

Yellen was a "very normal kid." "We would talk for hours by phone" about typical subjects such as boys, clothes, and "who said what to whom."

"the real gift to teenage girls like Janet and me was the way we were treated by our teachers, our parents and our peers." Instead of being beholden to gender stere­otypes, "[w]e were expected to take charge, just as our mothers and grandmothers did when men went off to war."

Yellen was an all-around scholar who, with encouragement from her parents, took an advanced-course track through middle school, allowing her to enter high school as a sophomore and graduate a year ahead of her peers.

Her prowess with language arts propelled her toward the editor in chief role at [the school newspaper]… yet her self-profile revealed her to be fascinated by science and math.

She was fun-loving and showed a ready wit

she said she enjoyed reading philosophy

also seemed to exhibit an unusual degree of discipline.

"She did lots of things, and she did them all really well,"

"What stood out to me was intentionality, purposefulness, a determination not to be better than others but to be the best she could be."

Yellen wasn't one to put on airs

Staff economists remember her eating with them in the bank cafeteria.

But she was motivated to achieve.

An unsigned editorial in The Pilot at the close of her senior year (Yellen believes she wrote it but, 50 years later, can't be sure) urged a do-something outlook that her own life embraced: "Be curious! Wonder why the sky is blue, what fire is, why peace-loving nations feud … but wonder about something!"

headed off to college at Pembroke (then the women's college at Brown University) in Rhode Island. Economics quickly drew her in. "She was totally smitten" after her first course, Grosart says, recalling the excitement Yellen shared when returning home on a break.

Graduating with highest honors led to the opportunity to do doctoral work at Yale University, followed by a rare invitation from Harvard University to start teaching there before she had landed a job anywhere else.

Yellen's career had begun its upward arc.

• • •

In 1977, Yellen met George Akerlof, another rising star in the field of economics. It was essentially love at first seminar.

"We liked each other immediately," Mr. Akerlof writes in an autobiographical sketch. "Not only did our personalities mesh perfectly, but we have also always been in all but perfect agreement about macroeconomics."

The scholar spouses shared an interest in mysteries related to unemployment.

Akerlof's and Yellen's academic lives have been centered around the University of California, Berkeley, where he won a Nobel Prize and she taught for years at the Haas School of Business.

Family interests over the years have included cooking, hiking, tennis, and travel. Yet their dinner table discussions, Yellen acknowledged in 1995, might not be that interesting to an outsider (typically revolving around economics).

The home environment was stimulating enough that Robert Akerlof, their son, chose to enter the same field and now teaches at the University of Warwick in England.

When Mr. Kohn's team of staffers would present economic briefings to the board, Yellen almost invariably seemed to be the one who homed in on the key issue.

"She would find the central point in the briefing, sometimes the central weak point in the briefing. I was often surprised, especially at first," says Kohn, who later held the vice chair role that Yellen would eventually occupy.

It was surprising in part because the other six got to comment or raise questions – starting with Chairman Alan Greenspan – before she, as the newest member, could utter a word.

Kohn's view of Yellen is echoed by Ted Truman,..he recalls similar signs of a sharp intellect.

Yellen's job was to take notes for the whole class, because Professor Tobin wanted the students to be free to listen and discuss. "They were very elegant and careful notes," Truman says, "and they became classics"

• • •

All this may make it sound as if Yellen is a superwoman – someone who crunches numbers about the American economy while wearing a cape. She isn't.

She often prefers to speak from prepared notes rather than spontaneously, which some see as a sign of preparation and precision and others see as too programmed. The best shot one Washington gossip news report could take was to chide her for – horrors! – wearing the same outfit to both her confirmation announcement and her confirmation hearing.

Yet she does draw criticism for where she might lead the Fed.

Her confirmation vote, on Jan. 6, was 56 to 26 – the narrowest margin any Fed nominee has ever been approved by. All the "no" votes were cast by Republicans.

Yellen's history at the Fed shows her to be more pragmatic than ideological. It also suggests she can be tough and persuasive when she wants.


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