Economists to Obama: Pick Yellen for Fed chair

janet yellen economist open letter

More than 300 economists have signed a letter urging President Obama to nominate Janet Yellen as the next Federal Reserve chair.

"Dr. Yellen is superbly qualified," the letter says.

"In our opinion, she is the best possible leader for the Federal Reserve Board at this critical time in our nation's history."

The long list leads with prominent names including Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and former Fed officials Alan Blinder and Alice Rivlin, who both once sat in Yellen's current role as vice-chair of the central bank.

Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research started the letter on Sunday and gathered more than 250 signatures in the first 24 hours. The letter is hosted on IWPR's website, and Hartmann said she plans to submit it to the White House next week.

While the letter never mentions the other top contender, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Hartmann said she was inspired to start the effort by recent media coverage, which she said seems to concede that Summers will get the job, merely because he's better connected to the White House.

"I was motivated by the shift in the media coverage, which was almost justifying a Summers choice," Hartmann said. "We wanted to show that the media may have moved on, but the economics profession has a strong preference for Janet Yellen based on her record as an economist."

In July, Democratic Senators including Dianne Feinstein of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois also sent a letter to Obama urging him to choose Yellen.

Related: Female economists: Pick Janet, but leave gender out of it!

Yellen, 66, previously served as president of the San Francisco Fed before joining the Board of Governors as vice chair. She has a Ph.D in economics from Yale and vast academic experience at the University of California, Berkeley.

Plus, she served a two-year stint as chairwoman of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers.

At the Fed, she was one of the first top officials to warn colleagues about the housing crisis, and has since focused on bringing the unemployment rate down.

Yellen vs. Summers in Fed Chief face-off
Yellen vs. Summers in Fed Chief face-off

If appointed, Yellen would also be the first woman to head the central bank. In a CNNMoney survey of female economists last month, most said they prefer Yellen get the job, purely based on her credentials.

"Dr. Yellen's credentials, skills and abilities are so outstanding, and I think women will view it as an insult if someone so qualified is passed over," Hartmann said. "This group of economists is trying to urge the president not to do that."

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