Time economics columnist Rana Foroohar had heard that Janet Yellen was the best-prepared participant at Federal Reserve Board meetings. But even Rana was surprised that Yellen’s penchant for gathering intelligence somehow included knowing where Rana had spent her Christmas vacation. “Talk about soft power,” Rana says. In her very first interview as Fed chair, Yellen spoke as convincingly about income inequality and unemployment as she did about the immense but more abstract challenge of managing the nation’s $10.9 trillion money supply. Her job, Yellen told Rana in her office at the Fed in Washington, involves far more than merely managing inflation and monitoring the banks: “It’s about trying to help ordinary households get back on their feet and about creating a labor market where people can feel secure and work and get ahead.”
On Yellen’s nightstand is Mark Leibovich’s lively, lethal portrait of Washington’s fever swamps, This Town, which reads as a cautionary tale for anyone navigating the streams of power. But she is undaunted, having won the monetary-policy crown over a number of fairly cunning competitors. She and her husband of 36 years, Nobel Prize–winning economist George Akerlof, are modest people, observes economist Laura Tyson: “They aren’t out there pushing their ‘brands.'” Tyson and other longtime friends, like economist Christina Romer, point to Yellen and Akerlof as role models for couples balancing challenging careers with family life. (Their son is an economics professor in the U.K.) In fact, one of their most discussed academic papers about the sensitivity of labor markets was inspired by what they learned from hiring babysitters. Their example is bound to provide more grist as long as the debate endures over whether anyone can actually have it all–even as Yellen works to build an economy where everyone can have more.
Nancy Gibbs, MANAGING EDITOR
NOW ON LIGHTBOX
In 1950s America, the novelty of television brought a cultural sea change–and lots of showing off. For the Chinese masses, many of whom bought TVs for the first time in the 1980s, the eagerness to display their shiny status symbols was no less fervid. ME TV, a new book from German publisher KesselsKramer, explores this era in the People’s Republic by highlighting an unusual set of snapshots discovered in a Beijing market: a woman posing in multiple outfits with her TV. To read more, visit lightbox.time.com.
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Can TIME guess your politics? Using research from social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (some highlights below), we designed a quiz that tries. Take it at time.com/mypolitics.
LIKELY CONSERVATIVE TRAITS
Preferring dogs to cats
Preferring action-adventure movies to documentaries
Preferring a neat desk to a messy one
LIKELY LIBERAL TRAITS
Preferring Safari to Internet Explorer
Enthusiasm for fusion cuisine
Preferring the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Times Square
WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT …
@TIME shamelessly panders to the “my mom” demographic.
@sethmeyers If I were you, I’d go hang out in a magazine shop and smile just like that.
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This appears in the January 20, 2014 issue of TIME.