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The Gender Politics of the Financial Crisis

Moe Tkacik has a great piece exploring the gender politics of the financial crisis and, in particular, the vicious treatment of Sheila Bair, Brooksley Born and other women who have been marginalized by the Clinton and Obama economic teams but have also been notably prescient on the crisis. It's a bit long, and I don't think any particular excerpt would do Tkacik's argument justice, so you should just read it.

The one thing I'd add is that there's also a structural critique to be made here. The men who have been chosen for top spots in economic policy tend to come from similar worlds to one another. Many came from Wall Street and, in particular, Goldman Sachs. Others, like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, were noticed and promoted by Robert Rubin.

The women who were chosen for top positions have more eclectic backgrounds. Bair was a former staffer to Bob Dole and the acting chair of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission. Born was a pioneering lawyer. Neither was plucked from traditional pools of economic talent and, as such, proved both relatively immune from the group-think and relatively marginalized by the group. That's not necessarily accidental: Wall Street is male-dominated, and Rubin, a former Wall Street titan, chose other men as his political proteges. Assuring some female representation meant searching outside those groups, and that meant the females who were chosen didn't share the blind spots and consensus opinions of those groups.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 6, 2009; 4:52 PM ET
Categories:  Financial Crisis  
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What about Christina Romer, the chair of The Council of Economic Advisers? I haven't heard much from or about her in a minute.

Posted by: wldowning | August 6, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

The argument that Wall Street is some kind of meritocracy has, to me, always been transparently false. I mean, almost all those guys have basically the same life story--it's the same dude, over and over.

To me, that argues far more strongly that the internal economy of Wall Street is your classic rentier economy. A bunch of people who are doing well by virtue of special access and special privilege. To take the grossest example, pay won't be set by things like "how much did you make for the client," they'll be set by considerations like "how much does his pay affect my pay? If I set it higher, do I justify a new raise for myself?"

Wall Street has at this point degraded into something much like a group of imperial courtiers, each jockeying for position by the strange rules and norms of in their in-group, and banding together against anyone who tries to upset the applecart and disloge them from their privileged sphere. It certainly bears little resemblance to what it claims to be: a bunch of competitors who are providing a valuable service that people can choose, in an informed way, to buy from them or from someone else.

Posted by: theorajones1 | August 6, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

You know I'm sympathetic to the argument in the link, but good GOD is it filled with misinformation, misleading statements, and ad hominem attacks. It doesn't fill me with confidence that I should believe much of anything in the piece! Maybe someone else a little more, uh, evenhanded could write something with the same gist.

Posted by: goinupnup | August 6, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Agreed about the structural issue -- here's Tkacik making the same point last November (see item #5):

Posted by: CHR12 | August 7, 2009 12:47 AM | Report abuse

I had similar thoughts a few years ago during the whistleblower scandals (enron, etc.) when it was primarily women who were doing the whistleblowing - I think three of them were even named people of the year by Time. I couldn't help thinking at the time that a large part of their willingness to go out on a limb and risk their own careers was because they hadn't been fully absorbed/brainwashed by the old-boys network.

Posted by: sam1111 | August 7, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

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