Janet Yellen leaves the Federal Reserve with the economy clicking, the stock market humming and the central bank on a clear path away from the emergency policies it put into place to help rescue the U.S. from the deep throes of the financial crisis.
Yet her grade as head of the Fed is a decided "incomplete."
Yes, by any typical standard of performance Yellen would be considered an unqualified success. She and her colleagues enacted programs and policies that have brought the economy and financial system back from the brink. She is almost universally respected on Wall Street, even if she remains a bit of an enigma on Main Street.
But no one knows yet what the future ramifications will be of the extreme measures the Fed took under her watch and that of her immediate predecessor, Ben Bernanke.
And for that, Yellen, who exited Friday after a four-term as chair and a 14-year career overall at the Fed, is yet to be judged fully. Her supporters hail her effectiveness at pulling the central bank through the crisis then managing its way back out; detractors say she inflated financial bubbles to get there, the long-term effects of which will be disastrous.
"The thing she'll be mostly known for is steering the economy into a fabulous position," said Princeton economist and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder. "We are now looking at roughly 4 percent unemployment and 1.5 percent inflation. This is better than almost anybody four years ago thought we could do, my guess including Janet Yellen."
Asked to assess Yellen by the presidential standard — are you better off now than you were four years ago? — Blinder responded, "A resounding yes with at least three exclamation points after it."
Well, maybe no.
Critics remain convinced that the Fed sold out middle America by using low interest rates and money printing to boost Wall Street while neglecting the plight of many who still feel the stifling effect of the crisis and the stagnant growth that followed.