The World's Most Powerful Person: Janet Yellen

The incoming Federal Reserve chair will battle unemployment, the most important economic and social problem of our day

When the right person is holding the right job at the right moment, that person's influence is greatly expanded. That is the position in which Janet Yellen, who is expected to be confirmed as the next chair of the Federal Reserve bank in January, now finds herself. If you believe, as many do, that unemployment is the major economic and social concern of our day, then it is no stretch to think Yellen is the most powerful person in the world right now.

Throughout the 2008 financial crisis and the recession and recovery that followed—a period made more painful by Washington gridlock—central banks have taken on the role of stimulators of last resort, propping up markets and the global economy with vast amounts of money in the form of asset buying. Yellen, previously a Fed vice chair, was one of the principal architects of the Fed's $3.8 trillion money dump. A star economist known for her groundbreaking work on labor markets—including the contrarian idea that low wages can actually increase unemployment—Yellen was a kind of prophetess early on in the crisis for her warnings about the subprime meltdown and devotion to fortifying the financial system. Now it will be her job to get the Fed and the markets out of the biggest and most unconventional monetary program in history.

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