Two Pieces of Good News from Washington

Speaker of the House John Boehner allowed a straightforward “clean vote” on raising the debt ceiling instead of holding the world economy hostage again. Many right-wingers are outraged. Maybe one day Congress will get rid of the debt ceiling altogether, since raising it merely allows the government to borrow money to pay bills Congress has already approved.

Secondly, Janet Yellen testified before Congress for the first time in her new role as chairman of the Federal Reserve. It’s hard to understand why President Obama initially seems to have preferred someone else for the job. There is a nice, clear summary of her testimony from John Cassidy at the New YorkerThis is his conclusion (calling her “dovish” means she’s not an “inflation hawk”, i.e. fighting inflation isn’t her one big priority):

She’s a historic figure. I am not just referring to her gender. I’m talking about her approach to policy making, and the emphasis she puts on creating jobs and reducing unemployment. “Since the financial crisis and the depths of the recession, substantial progress has been made in restoring the economy to health and in strengthening the financial system,” she said toward the end of her prepared remarks. “Still, there is more to do. Too many Americans remain unemployed, inflation remains below our longer-run objective, and the work of making the financial system more robust has not yet been completed.”

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Fed chief come to office declaring that unemployment is too high, inflation is too low, and that we need to keep those Wall Street bounders in check. (Bernanke ended up saying some of these things, but he didn’t start out saying them.) In a post last year, I suggested that Yellen could be the most dovish Fed boss since … the Great Depression, and I noted that, “if Yellen does take over from Bernanke next February, there’s no reason to doubt that concern for the unemployed will remain her leitmotif.” Nothing she said today was inconsistent with that description.

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