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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Delaying action by affirmative action in the White House 


Mark Hemingway and Megan McArdle (and I am sure others) have at various times observed that the White House has delayed filling spaces on its economic team so that it can identify, vet, and appoint qualified women and thereby achieve gender diversity. The issue surfaced again yesterday with a report in the Politico that some in the White House want to look for a woman to replace Christina Romer even though, er, Rome, or at least its economy, is burning.

The White House said Aug. 9 that a successor to Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, would be named “by September 3rd, when Dr. Romer leaves her post.” That’s today, and no announcement is planned before the holiday. The West Wing has been flummoxed over a replacement. The Chicago crowd likes campaign stalwart Austan Goolsbee, now working under Romer, and no obvious alternative to him emerged. Goolsbee’s good on TV, and they need a communicator. But some aides argue for keeping a woman on the econ. team.

I am not sure that we should have expected anything different out of this administration, but the issue does invite a question: If the velocity of hiring (and therefore execution) in the White House is actually slower than it otherwise might be because of its quest for demographic diversity, what about the wider impact of such delays elsewhere in the economy? If every enterprise, non-profit, and governmental agency that has implemented affirmative action programs for regulatory or political purposes is also slower to execute because of delays in recruitment and hiring, ought that not be even more troubling than a slow appointment to the Council of Economic Advisors?

12 Comments:

By Anonymous Sally, at Sun Sep 05, 10:16:00 AM:

I don't want to assume anything here but I'm thinking that maybe part of the problem is that there just aren't that many women economists around. Or, to the extent there are, there aren't enough to qualify ideologically. Ah, well, since the Obama administration doesn't have a prayer of coming up with anything meaningful when it comes to the economy it doesn't really matter if the spot is left vacant or not.

As to your larger issue --is hiring stymied by the need to meet quotas--it also isn't going to matter unless those jobs are truly vital. It would certainly be a bad thing if we're talking about something other than paper-pushing bureaucrats, doctors, engineers, pilots, mechanics, people who really know how to do something meaningful.  

By Anonymous feeblemind, at Sun Sep 05, 10:22:00 AM:

You raise an interesting question TH.

The larger question may be, what is the effect on the economy if hiring is done with diversity as the goal rather than competency?  

By Anonymous Joseph Brown, at Sun Sep 05, 10:29:00 AM:

What's wrong with using Affirmative Action?
After all that's how Obie went to college and got the presidency.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Sun Sep 05, 11:23:00 AM:

If the man would just enlarge his view a bit, and look for a female economic advisor from Venezuela or Cuba, I'm sure he'd have no trouble finding someone who understands economics as he does. In fact given the success of those economies I will bet they have a surplus of economists, so many they don't know what to do with them.

And why does a President with such a demonstrated facility for economic policy need an advisor? That would imply that there was some doubt or uncertainty in his conviction that not only does he know what he is doing, but he knows better than than the rest of us.

Given the kind of people he selects, preferably Marxist, academic and no real world business experience, wouldn't it be preferable that he not select anyone? Isn't it better to be hopelessly without a clue, than to be clueless as to how clueless one is?

M.E.  

By Anonymous Vladimir, at Sun Sep 05, 12:26:00 PM:

Well when the president himself has been nothing but an affirmative action token his entire life (I dare you, Barack, to release your academic records and test scores and prove me wrong) why would it be any different for his underlings?  

By Blogger Dymphna, at Sun Sep 05, 05:15:00 PM:

Sheesh, Tigerhawk, a woman economist? That would be a...umm... economomistress, right?

Thank heavens teh administration doesn't need to fill a position in physics via gender.

These people are such ideologues and yet they complain about fundamentalists on the right. Guess it depends on your fundaments, hmm?  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Sep 05, 06:09:00 PM:

A similar situation exists in most hospital corporations, where there is more concern with the APPEARANCE of "Quality" than actually achieving it.

Same reason that the hsitory of the world has many examples of great people, but no great governments.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Sep 05, 09:37:00 PM:

If you want to play the affirmative action game, then, in my old undergraduate department, there are nine very capable women who could serve President Obama well as an economics advisor. (I am making the assumption that each would consent to such service.) Just within the Ivy League -- not that you want to recruit all of your advisors from the Ancient Eight -- there must be dozens of possible female candidates, even if certain academic sub-specialties of finance and economics are eliminated.

There are plenty of capabale economists of both sexes, and even some that have been out in the real world, thereby making themselves better advisors who help to solve actual problems.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Sep 05, 11:52:00 PM:

Anon attorney here. Word on the street is that very few respected economists are still willing to tie their reputations to this failing administration.

Fewer than 30 months left in the American Perdition. God help us all.  

By Blogger MainStreet, at Mon Sep 06, 02:51:00 AM:

Maybe we can balance the budget by attrition. You know, a $Trillion here and a $Trillion there.  

By Blogger randian, at Mon Sep 06, 03:37:00 AM:

And why does a President with such a demonstrated facility for economic policy need an advisor?

Deniability and somebody to shift blame onto should their policy prescriptions not work.  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Mon Sep 06, 01:13:00 PM:

" ... very few respected economists are still willing to tie their reputations to this failing administration."

I second this.

Little Timmy hangs in there because he's a part-timer for Goldman Etc. -- he'll be taken care of.

Larry Summers has nowhere else to go.  

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