President Obama got a surprise political boost this week, when one of his stalled nominees to the Federal Reserve, Peter Diamond of MIT, was named among three winners of this year's Nobel Prize in economics. Diamond and his colleagues won for their work on why the unemployed can fail to find work, even when there are jobs available. But Republicans — particularly Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) — have been blocking Diamond's nomination on the grounds that he doesn't have enough experience. Should the GOP back down now that Diamond has won a Nobel? (Watch a PBS report about Diamond's award)
This proves Shelby is playing politics: Diamond's Nobel "makes Shelby look a little more ridiculous," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. Shelby has argued that Diamond isn't an expert in monetary policy, "which is true" — but Shelby didn't blink before rubberstamping a George W. Bush appointee who had "no advanced degree in economics" at all. Diamond's expertise in unemployment is something we could use right now, so he at least deserves an up or down vote.
"Richard Shelby, the Nobel committee is holding on line one"
Democrats should be careful what they wish for: The Nobel endorsement makes his confirmation more likely, says Jennifer Rubin at Commentary. But it should be "edifying" to hear about the substance of his research — such as his conclusion that unemployment benefits, union rules against firing people, and other "frictions" can make it harder for the jobless to find work. The confirmation hearings will make Democrats squirm as their nominee explains how their policies make unemployment worse.
"Nobel Prize winners — a teachable moment?"
Diamond's confirmation still will not be easy: It is "probably little conspiratorial" to suggest the committee members were "deliberately tweaking Republican noses by recognizing Diamond," says Simon Denyer at Reuters, although the White House capitalized on the news by urging his speedy confirmation. But Shelby is "unbowed," saying "the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not determine who is qualified to serve" on the Fed. So the Nobel committee might not have settled the matter, but it sure did stir things up in Washington.
"Nobel committee polishes Diamond's credentials"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Pope Francis' American problem
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
Subscribe to the Week