Summers has plenty of other things figured out as well, including the origins of the current financial crisis, for which he has crafted a cogent explanation worthy of his reputation as a policy wonk and his days as a college debating champion at M.I.T. “I think crises like this get made by multiple cascading misjudgments,” he explains, and then catalogues them: too much government spending, not enough private-sector saving, too much dependence on foreign debt, too much demand for “riskless” financial instruments that weren’t, in fact, riskless …
The first three of these were, at best, only tangentially related. As much as I think the Bush tax cuts were a mistake, Republican inability to balance the budget really did not have anything to do with the crisis. Ditto for Private-sector saving (even though i think saving is good, generally...) Dependence on foreign debt had nothing to do with the crisis.
Then there is this:
There were also charges of betrayal from Iris Mack, a former derivatives specialist at the Harvard Management Company (responsible for investing Harvard’s endowment) and the second black woman to receive a doctorate in applied mathematics at Harvard. Mack claims that soon after she started working at Harvard Management, in early 2002—after a stint at Enron—she became uncomfortable with the lack of understanding she thought her colleagues had with the risky derivatives they were investing in. (She was proved correct in the past fiscal year, when the endowment dropped 27.3 percent.) On May 12, 2002, she wrote an e-mail to Summers, alerting him to her concerns: “As a proud Harvard alum I am deeply troubled and surprised by what I have been exposed to thus far at HMC, and the potential consequences for my alma mater’s endowment. In addition, I strongly believe that if my fellow alum[s] knew how the endowment is being managed and the caliber of some of the portfolio managers, they probably would not give another dime to our endowment.”
She asked Summers for a meeting and that he keep the correspondence between them confidential, “especially due to th[e] fact that several individuals have been terminated from HMC when they raised concerns about such issues.” Nine days later, Mack got an e-mail from Marne Levine, Summers’s chief of staff at Harvard (and now his chief of staff at the National Economic Council), asking Mack to contact her and assuring her that the initial e-mail “remains confidential.”
But not for long. A month later, she was confronted by Jack Meyer, then head of H.M.C., who had copies of her correspondence with Summers and Levine. Meyer fired her the next day. She has since reached a confidential settlement with Harvard that she won’t discuss. But she is unequivocal about one thing. “I would say that there is 99.9999999999999999 percent probability that Summers had a hand in my departure,” she wrote me in an e-mail. (Summers replies he had nothing to do with her firing and could not, because she did not work for or report to him. “[Mack’s] allegations were the subject of thorough internal and external reviews and found to be without merit,” says a Harvard spokesman.)
I'd already heard (and posted) about this, but don't remember posting this part of the story... The rest of the Vanity Fair piece is garbage, as you would expect.