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Staffing the Federal Reserve Board

One dimension along which the Obama administration has really fallen down on the job is in its failure to even nominate people to fill Federal Reserve Board vacancies. By summertime three of the seven slots on the Board will be open.

David Wessel rounds up the usual suspects:

In Search of an Economist for Fed Board: Prestige, Power... and a Pay Cut: The retirement of Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Don Kohn has the Obama administration searching for economists to fill one or more of the three openings of the seven-member Fed board. Among the possibilities for the vice chairman slot are a couple of alumni of the Greenspan Fed board: Janet Yellen, who has been president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco since 2004, and Laurence Meyer, a private, Washington-based Fed watcher. Among other names surfacing: Alan Krueger, a Princeton University labor economist who is now assistant Treasury secretary... Jeremy Stein, a Harvard University finance professor.... Daniel Tarullo, the Obama appointee to the Fed board, seems to prefer being the Fed’s banking czar to the vice chairman’s duties. And word is that Christina Romer, the economic historian on leave from Berkeley to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, isn’t interested.... Kohn’s retirement, at age 67, leaves Chairman Ben Bernanke the only economist on the Fed board. Elevating a Fed staffer to the Board is an option. Among the possibilities: Brian Madigan, chief of the Fed’s Division of Monetary Affairs, a post Kohn once held; John Williams, research director at the San Francisco Fed who would be a contender for Yellen’s job if she left; and Jeffrey Fuhrer, the Boston Fed’s research director.

Madigan, Williams, and Fuhrer would be great. Yellen wouldn't solve the problem that more macroeconomists who think like Ben Bernanke are desperately needed on the FOMC: removing Yellen from the San Francisco Bank to add her to the Board doesn't change the voices. Larry Meyer would be great. My ex-boss Alicia Munnell would be great. David Romer would be great. Peter Diamond would be great. I have a soft spot for my teacher Peter Temin--who would, I think, be really great. And, as I said before, Joe Gagnon would be great. And so would Athanasius Orphanides--if we want to steal a central bank governor from Cyprus--and Stanley Fischer--if we want to steal a central bank governor from Israel. Michael Mussa or Ted Truman would be supergreat as well. Perhaps Ric Mishkin has finished revising his Money and Banking textbook, and would agree to come back...

One problem: these jobs have been hanging open for so long that it would be really nice to get people into them immediately, which--given the senate--means recess appointments. But the fear is that once you have had a recess appointment the senate will never again confirm you for real for anything (and recess appointments are relatively short term). So you have to pick people who (a) want to work for the government, but (b) don't mind foreclosing their options to work for the government again.