WASHINGTON — In a history-making selection, President Barack Obama nominated Janet Yellen to be chairman of the Federal Reserve, a critical post as the nation continues its fitful economic recovery. If confirmed she would be the first woman to lead the powerful central bank.
A look at the public and private Janet Yellen.
SHARP FORECASTER: In the 12 years she has expressed her views, she’s built an enviable batting average. From the damage that a bursting housing bubble could cause to the steps the Fed needed to take to fight the recession, Yellen often saw more accurately into the future than many others.
CONSENSUS BUILDER: Supporters say a key advantage she had over her top rival for the Fed post, Larry Summers, was this: She’s been able to build consensus among the Fed board members and regional presidents who set interest-rate policies.
CLASS ACT: Shy and quiet outside the classroom. Firm and direct when making a point in class. That’s how former students and colleagues recall Yellen, who spent more than 25 years teaching economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
STAMPS TO STOCKS: Yellen and her husband, Nobel Prize-winning economist George Akerlof, have owned stocks and investment funds in a trust. And they share a fondness for stamps. The two had between $4 million and $13 million in assets as of 2012. Last year, she made $179,700 at the Fed. As chair, she would be paid $199,700.
ACADEMIC STAR: Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1946, her father was a physician. She graduated as valedictorian from her public high school, then summa cum laude from Brown with an economics degree in 1967. She got a Ph.D. four years later from Yale, where her “Yellen Notes” became an unofficial textbook for generations of students studying economics.
Yellen, who currently holds the No. 2 spot at the Fed, would replace Ben Bernanke, whose eight-year tenure at the helm of the Fed ends Jan. 31.
Obama introduced Yellen as a “proven leader.” “And she’s tough, not just because she’s from Brooklyn,” he said. He credited her for being a consensus builder, adding: “She understands the human cost when people can’t find a job.”
Before selecting Yellen, Obama had considered nominating former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who had been a close Obama adviser during the first years of his presidency. But Summers withdrew in the face of opposition over his temperament and past support for bank deregulation.
Obama heaped praise on Bernanke for taking “bold action” at the height of the financial crisis in 2008 to “shore up our banks and get credit flowing again.”
“Ben Bernanke is the epitome of calm, and against the volatility of global markets he’s been a voice of wisdom and a steady hand,” Obama said.
The central bank reaches into the lives of millions of Americans. Its two main missions are fostering maximum employment and stabilizing prices. With its power to regulate the supply of money and set interest rates, it influences economic activity, hiring and inflation. It also is the leading regulator of banks and plays a crucial role as the country’s lender of last resort when banks can’t get their money elsewhere.
In accepting the nomination, Yellen said more still needs to be done to strengthen the recovery. She said the past six years have been tumultuous for the economy and challenging for many Americans. She said that while the recovery is not complete, “we have made progress, the economy is stronger and the financial system is sounder.”