Unwanted Criticism from Lawrence H. Summers


Down in Washington, there is an unwritten rule that says if a former officer has nothing good to say about the people who succeeded them, they should keep their mouths shut. However, there is a new emerging habit in Washington where former leaders can’t keep their mouths shut. This has been the case with Lawrence H. Summers and Steven Mnuchin. For starters, Mr. Mnuchin is the current Treasury Secretary while Mr. Summers used to be the treasury secretary for the Clinton administration in the 1990s. He has directed some personal criticism to the current secretary. To achieve this, he has used Twitter, op-eds as well as blog posts and podcasts. Just recently, Mr. Summers served as an economic advisor to the Obama administration. At the same time, he used to teach economics at Harvard University. He has accused Mr. Mnuchin of being a sycophant to President Trump. He has also accused him of destroying the credibility of the Treasury. He has made this possible by falling for what he refers to as irresponsible economic assessments related to the latest efforts to repeal the tax code. As for the professionals who run the economic circles, they have either been amused or annoyed by the efforts of the former secretary.

Some including economic and political experts have argued that Mr. Summers is the one damaging the credibility of the treasury. They argue that a former treasury secretary should not criticize a sitting secretary. These words were also echoed by Paul H. O’Neill who was the first treasury secretary for the Bush administration. He argues that there is a secret tradition that a former official should not criticize a sitting one. On the other hand, he mentions that they also have opinions on the way things are going, it’s only that they don’t let people know what they are thinking. He said that levels of success could differ from one secretary to the other. Some have been more successful than the others. What all past secretaries at any department can tell you is that heckling does not help. The dean of Columbia Business School Glen Hubbard says that criticism can only be helpful where it’s specific. He says that whenever someone cannot agree on a certain policy, he should specify the reason. Another economist who shares the same sentiment is Larry Kudlow. He further says that the criticism of Mr. Summers is damaging and not welcome. He says that Mr. Summers is making the situation personal.


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