Larry Summers Talked Himself Out of a Job

The top economist, who withdrew his name to lead the Fed, is still haunted by comments on Africa and women.

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Let's take Summers at his word on Africa, that he was kidding, that it was all just a joke. Well, Africa is not a joke. Seeing African lives as a trifle is, as a tween might put it, so not cool. The possibility that Summers was, under the guise of humor, speaking his mind is even more disturbing. The possibility that the head of America's banking system could see global lives as trivial is deeply disturbing.

Recent economic analyses show that 93 percent of Americans are losing financial ground in our current economy. It's not a question of blaming rich people for being rich. Most of us want to be better off. (I'm certainly no exception.) And our government, as part of the public trust, should make sure that more of us have a chance to realize the value of our hard work.

Again: it's not about handouts or even hand-ups, but about fairness. Actions speak louder than words. But words, in the right mouths, also spur actions. For that reason, and many others, Larry Summers has found himself held accountable to his own tongue.

Farai Chideya is a distinguished writer in residence at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Institute for Journalism. A contributing editor at The Root, she is  the author of four books and blogs at

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