Doffing its CAP

Center for American Progress has history of attacking new hire Larry Summers

Larry Summers / AP
December 18, 2012

The left-wing Center for American Progress has a new and distinguished senior fellow in Larry Summers, the Washington Post reports:

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has named former National Economic Council Director and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers as a distinguished senior fellow.

"As our country continues to confront challenges to establishing economic growth that is more broadly shared, there are few thinkers with Larry’s insights, keen intellect, and policy creativity," said Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, in a statement.

Summers will continue his work on economic issues at CAP and will co-chair a new project with former British foreign minister David Miliband, who has also been a recent addition to the progressive think tank.

While president at Harvard University, Summers was harshly attacked for suggesting women may be underrepresented in tenured positions in academic fields such as science and math because of "systematic differences" in biology. It was widely speculated that Summers left his job in part because of this incident.

However, one of Summers' new colleagues disputed that claim and argued there were plenty of other reasons for Summers to leave. CAP fellow Eric Alterman pointed to Summers’ "deliberate alienation of then-star Harvard African-American studies professor Cornel West" and his tendency to offend a "rather large portion" of colleagues as more likely reasons for his departure.

According to fellow fellow Alterman, Summers "may not have been the best choice for the job in the first place." He was "a bull in a china shop and might very well have been forced out of Harvard no matter what he thought about women and science."

Criticism of Summers has extended beyond his time at Harvard.

Bloggers at the Center for American Progress Action Fund blog ThinkProgress have drawn attention to his role in the private sector where Summers received a "multi-million dollar income mostly derived from financial firms in exchange for vaguely defined services." According to former CAP Action blogger and current Slate economics and philosophy expert Matthew Yglesias, this was "a reminder that the people running our policy have a level of personal ties to and affinity for the world of big finance that the rest of us lack."

Yglesias returned to his discussion of Summers’ large payouts in another article, saying:

It might make sense for a … financial firm to pay Larry Summers $5 million a year for a one-day-a-week job. When your company’s underlying product isn’t necessarily sound, it’s important to invest a lot in marketing. Summers is like a celebrity endorsement.

Still, while employees of the Center for American Progress and its Action Fund have not always been his biggest fans, they may be won over if Summers is able to stay awake during events.

Neither CAP nor Summers returned requests for comment.