Larry Summers Rules Out Taking a Job in a Biden Administration
Lawrence “Larry” Summers, former U.S. treasury secretary, pauses during a session on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

Larry Summers Rules Out Taking a Job in a Biden Administration

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, says he won’t be joining the Biden administration if the former vice president defeats President Donald Trump in November.

“I am very, very happy being able to speak freely,” Summers said in a virtual interview hosted by the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday. “My time in government is behind me and my time as a free speaker is ahead of me.”

Larry Summers Rules Out Taking a Job in a Biden Administration

Summers, 65, is a former president of Harvard University and remains a professor there. He was Treasury secretary at the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency and was director of the National Economic Council at the beginning of Barack Obama’s administration, when he worked with Biden.

Biden has relied on a network of dozens of economists to offer advice to his campaign. His staff has confirmed only a few names, including Biden’s former White House economic advisers Jared Bernstein and Ben Harris, as well as Heather Boushey of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Bloomberg News first reported in April that Summers was among those advising Biden.

Many progressives have criticized Summers for his past work, including in the Obama administration during the financial crisis, saying he promoted policies that were too favorable to big banks and argued against bigger fiscal stimulus at a time when the economy needed it.

Summers -- a paid contributor to Bloomberg Television -- said he expects Biden to win, though “no election is over until it’s over.”

“I think there is a quite good chance this will be what I call a repudiation election,” Summers said, similar to 1932 or 1980 when incumbents lost and governing philosophies changed. “A repudiation election is not just a defeat for an incumbent. It is a defeat for an approach and an ideology.”

Whatever the outcome, the president is likely to continue to face a sluggish economy next January because of the continuing effect on demand from the coronavirus pandemic, Summers said.

While recent months saw a rapid bounce-back after shutdowns in March and April, that’s now over, Summers said. The expansion is likely to be subdued until there are medical advances such as a vaccine, which may well take much longer than expected, he said.

“We are now headed for a slog,” Summers said. “It is going to be pretty tepid until a vaccine returns us to normal. We have got real challenges ahead of us for quite some time to come.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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