Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 9, 2011

LEAVING BEHIND A VALUABLE DIAMOND.... Last year, the Senate Banking Committee twice approved Peter Diamond's nomination to the Federal Reserve. And twice, the Senate wasn't allowed to vote on Diamond because Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) threw tantrums and blocked the nominee.

So, this year, President Obama resubmitted the Diamond nomination. And once again, the petulant Republican from Alabama has decided he's entitled to veto power over the process.

The top Republican on the Senate banking panel made clear Tuesday that he still opposed the nomination of the M.I.T. professor and Nobel laureate, Peter A. Diamond, to the Federal Reserve calling him an "old-fashioned" Keynesian supporter of big government.

Opposition from Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama to a nomination that Republicans have already scuttled twice poses a challenge to President Obama, who must decide how much political capital he wants to spend to push for Mr. Diamond's approval.

"It is clear to many of us that he does not possess the appropriate background, experience or policy preferences to serve," on the Fed's board, Mr. Shelby said of Mr. Diamond.

It's important to understand how ridiculous this is. Diamond is among the most accomplished economists of his generation. Even after Diamond won a Nobel Prize in economics, Shelby insisted the economist lacked the qualifications to join the board of governors of the Federal Reserve.

As far as the conservative Republican is concerned, Diamond's background is not in monetary policy, which necessarily raises doubts about his nomination. It's true that this isn't Diamond's specific field, but it's hardly a prerequisite -- of the five sitting Fed governors at the time of Diamond's nomination, three were not specialists in monetary economics. One of Bush's appointees has no advanced degree in economics at all and has never done any academic research in the field.

What did Shelby have to say about this nominee? Nothing -- he never raised questions about the nominee's qualifications and didn't hesitate to support the nomination.

Diamond's expertise -- the scholarship that produced a Nobel prize -- is in understanding competing kinds of unemployment. Paul Krugman, himself a Nobel winner, noted a while back that "there's an ongoing dispute over what the rise in vacancies without a corresponding fall in unemployment means," and as luck would have it, Diamond "pioneered the whole study of this subject."

But for reasons that defy comprehension, Shelby simply decided he just doesn't like Diamond. The confused senator has the option of registering his opposition by voting against Diamond's nomination, and urging his colleagues to do the same, but the Republican lawmaker decided that wasn't good enough -- the Nobel laureate is so offensive, Shelby believes the Senate simply cannot be allowed to vote on the nominee at all.

This is no way to run an advanced democracy in the 21st century. Shelby is not only embarrassing himself, he's undercutting an institution that has a direct effect on the health of the economy.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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Steve, we are not an advanced democracy. We're an advanced plutocracy. Total political war means even an economic illiterate like Shelby gets to strut on the national stage and spout nonsense. Advanced democracies don't do this. We do because it's in the interest of the plutocrats to keep us confused and ineffective.

Posted by: walt on March 9, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Lets see... if Mr. Diamond is Jewish (or has a Jewish sounding name)... Mr. Shelby is a knuckle dragging Cracker, it follows that...... Mr. Shelby is an anti_________ (fill in the blank)

Posted by: jp on March 9, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

The Senate must be abolished. It is so dysfunctional it can't be fixed.

Posted by: rrk1 on March 9, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

No No No. Shelby is not confused. He knows exactly what he is doing. You are being too kind. He and his ilk simply do not believe that it is the federal reserve's business to take employment into consideration when making their decisions.

This is not an incoherent move on their part. They do not want an advocate of full employment on the federal reserve.

Just as was outlined quite clearly today in a story in the Times I believe, this anemic recovery is unique in the sense that the increase in productivity that has attended it has not been shared by the workers. This is by design. And it is only possible because of continued high unemployment.

Someone like Diamond on the federal reserve would be doing something about that. Which would have negative consequences for the people who put the Shelby turtle on that post.

Posted by: SW on March 9, 2011 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Same thing's going on with Donald Berwick at CMS (Medicare). He's the best possible nominee, so he's going nowhere with Republicans. They are against having expertise--almost as if they want to actively sabotage the government, wouldn't you say?

Posted by: lahke on March 9, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

What boggles my mind is the total unwillingness for recess appointments. It's almost as if Obama is allowing the government to be disfunctional.

Voters won't remember that it's Republicans doing the obstructing, they'll only remember that it's Democrats in power, and they'll be to blame come election time.

Posted by: jhill on March 9, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that Republican policy is to increase unemployment and economic misery during a Democratic presidency so that they can win the next one. That's all, nothing more or less. Everything they say or do is rubbish that promotes this goal. If the Democratic party behaved like this during a Republican presidency they'd be denounced as 'traitors'. The problem is that the Democrats behave as if everyone is playing by the same rules.

Posted by: Big Cecil Lubuwitz on March 9, 2011 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

I Thought This Had Been Settled

Didn't Reid & McConnell make some kind of deal about preserving the no-talk, 60-vote filibuster if Repubs stopped using it for every bill and stopped putting one-person holds on nomintions?

If this is actually the case, Reid would be within his rights to declare Shelby out of order and proceed with the vote.

Rather than continued hand-wringing about how Reid and the Dems will "never" do this, will "never" stand up, yada yada yada, how about calling Reid's office and your own Senators to urge them to this course of action?

Posted by: zandru on March 9, 2011 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

As I once again apologize for the politicians we elect here, let me also agree with SW, Shelby is not "confused". He is doing his part to advance the Right Wing Republican agenda. He is not doing it alone, this is part of the plan. As long as the Dems play along the Repubs will continue to win at it. Time to change the game.

Posted by: martin on March 9, 2011 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

The feeling of anxiety ordinary people are becoming inured to is precisely these gimmicks . This may or may not be recalled in fine detail at the voting booth . I suggest that the vagueness associated with the economic malaise and its effervescent hostility has become correctly etched in the minds of those not completely subscribed to pleasing preconceptions packaged as insight regularly vomited by the luminaries of vapidity . Those who engineer careers on the sturdy plank of annoying whatever it is that they perceive to be liberal , are becoming as irritating to the national conscience by the default reflex they possess as any long past remedy that may have been offered . Once in the long ago heady days of post Saint Ronnie when Rush Limbaugh was a radio entertainment personality and the political leadership of the Republican party was at least divided amongst representatives of the American people not entirely corporate sponsors .

Posted by: FRP on March 9, 2011 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

"But for reasons that defy comprehension, Shelby simply decided he just doesn't like Diamond."

The reason is that Diamond uses those pesky things called numbers and facts, and they both have a nasty habit of being Liberal.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 9, 2011 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

The reason for Shelby's opposition is the topic sentence in one of your paragraphs:

"Diamond's expertise -- the scholarship that produced a Nobel prize -- is in understanding competing kinds of unemployment."

It's a well-known fact that the GOP doesn't give a shit about unemployment or any of the other issues facing most Americans who aren't rich as Croesus. Those are "worker's issues" and carry no weight with the corporate whores who make up the GOP.

Posted by: jjcomet on March 9, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

If only Obama would nominate a true believer in Supply Side economic theory, Shelby and the corporate world and the repukes would gladly support him.

If only there were enough magic fairy dust to cover the world, then all of that fantastic piss-down economics would have raised everyone's boat!

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 9, 2011 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Having a high level of intellect and winning international awards goes against the personna of the Rethuglican Party. I cannot name one Rethug that has won the Nobel Peace Prize outside of Kissinger, and his Rethug credentials are suspect. What do the Rethugs have against thoughtful smart people, not everyone aspires to follow a knuckle dragging mouth breather!!

Posted by: Ted76 on March 9, 2011 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't Dems get some kind of deal about one person holds on nominees? Oh, right. They didn't get squat when they had the chance. I'm almost sicker of Dems than the other scumbags.

Posted by: digitusmedius on March 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican'ts have reneged on the "handshake" deal, and Reid ought to blow his stack at them, and rule every one of their efforts "out of order."

He won't, of course, but damn it all to hell, he should.


Posted by: Ed Drone on March 9, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

What boggles my mind is the total unwillingness for recess appointments. It's almost as if Obama is allowing the government to be disfunctional. -jhill

This cannot be said enough and is all the proof that anyone needs to see that Obama is as much beholden to the status quo as anyone.

Or, if you're a knee padder, this is just part of the Obama gambit, and checkmate is coming any day now.

Posted by: doubtful on March 9, 2011 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

zandru nails it. shame on Reid. shame on Senate dems for not pushing for greater reforms that prevent this.

If they have 40 senators willing to block, then so be it. But this one handful of jokers crap is total bs. Reid should have stopped it.

Posted by: Chuck on March 9, 2011 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Caligula's horse would be more intelligent than any goddamned Republican asswipe currently in the Senate.

Watching these fools in both House and Senate as they happily celebrate in public their ignorance and stupidity, one can begin to understand how the Roman public looked well on Julius Caesar when he went against the thoroughly-corrupt Roman Senate. I wouldn't want to see us go that route, but these guys make me want to reform government with an aluminum baseball bat.

Posted by: TCinLA on March 9, 2011 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Today's standards for conservatives is if they aren't white, dumb and submissive they don't get hired.

Posted by: Silver Owl on March 9, 2011 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I remember Rachel Maddow's piece on this guy, quoting Shelby that he's unqualified...then he wins the NOBEL PRIZE.
yeah, sure.

Posted by: rikyrah on March 9, 2011 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK
What boggles my mind is the total unwillingness for recess appointments.

While, oddly, Benen doesn't mention this, Diamond is currently serving in the position to which Shelby is blocking his second nomination for a permanent appointment because, after the nomination was blocked last year, the President gave Diamond a recess appointment.

Obama has, in fact, been very active in using the power to make recess appointments, making more than 20 last year.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 9, 2011 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

"But for reasons that defy comprehension, Shelby simply decided he just doesn't like Diamond."

it's pretty obvious.....as a keynesian, diamond doesn't believe in the tax fairy.


Posted by: dj spellchecka on March 9, 2011 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

As much as I despise Shelby, I'm not going to let my Dem Senators off the hook...didn't they pass up the opportunity to change the rules at the start of this year? The Dems shoot themselves in the foot, and then complain to the Cons for handing them the ammunition.

Posted by: JWK on March 9, 2011 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Peter Diamond is qualified.

Shelby...is piece of work! And to think he once thought, and probably still thinks, he could be a Supreme Court Justice.

Posted by: david on March 9, 2011 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK



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