What Biden’s New Economic Team Signals About His Agenda

President-elect Joe Biden announced his selection for the best members of his business team on Monday. The rulings signal a strong focus on easing a Covid-hit economy and supporting the labor market - and likely less on reducing the deficit, at least in the short term. Combined with Biden's announcement of an all-female senior communications team, Biden's recommendations also show the new government's attention to race and gender diversity.
The officially announced decisions include:
Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury. Yellen, former chairman of the Federal Reserve and director of the White House Economic Adviser Council under President Bill Clinton. If this were confirmed, Yellen would be the first woman to lead the finance department in its 231-year history. "We are currently facing major challenges as a country," said Yellen on Twitter. “To recover, we need to restore the American dream - a society where everyone can develop their potential and dream bigger for their children. As Finance Minister, I will work every day to rebuild that dream for everyone. "
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Adewale "Wally" Ademeyo as Deputy Treasury Secretary. Adeyemo, President of the Obama Foundation and former senior advisor to Wall Street giant BlackRock, has also served as deputy director of the National Economic Council, deputy national security advisor, and first chief of staff of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He would be the first black deputy finance minister.
Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton employment economist, heads the Council of Economic Advisers. Rouse served on President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers from 2009 to 2011 and served on the National Economic Council during the Clinton administration. She would be the first black woman to head the council.
Jared Bernstein as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers. Bernstein, Advisor to the Biden Campaign and a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, was Chief Economist to then Vice President Biden during the Obama administration.
Heather Boushey as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers. Boushey is President and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank on inequality that she co-founded. She was also an advisor to the Biden campaign. "Both Ms. Boushey and Mr. Bernstein come from a liberal, work-oriented business school that views rising inequality as a threat to the economy and emphasizes the government's efforts to support and empower workers," reports the New York Times.
Neera Tanden, director of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, leads the bureau of administration and budget. Tanden, who was a consultant to Hillary Clinton, was the first Indian-American and first black woman on the job. "After my parents divorced when I was young, my mom relied on public food and housing programs to get through," Tanden tweeted Monday. "Now I am being nominated to ensure that these programs are safe and that families like mine can live in dignity. I am extremely honored."
Biden has also reportedly elected Brian Deese, a BlackRock executive and former Obama administration economic adviser, to chair the National Economic Council, though that announcement may come later in the week.
Signaling Biden's Economic Priorities: The announcement by Biden's transition team underscored that the future government will prioritize recovery from the pandemic and plans to focus on increasing wages while reducing unemployment and inequality.
The team "will help the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and address the structural inequalities in our economy," Biden said in the statement. "You will work tirelessly to ensure that every American has a fair return on their work, equal opportunities to advance, and that our businesses can thrive and outperform the rest of the world."
This likely means seeking additional incentives and federal spending. "Mr. Biden. One of Biden's choices includes strong advocates of aggressive fiscal stimulus to quickly restore the economy to pre-pandemic conditions that could face opposition in a divided Congress," Ken Thomas and Kate Davidson write in the Wall Street Journal. “The advisors are also known for advocating expanded government spending, which they say would increase the economy's long-term potential in areas with liberal priorities such as education, infrastructure and the green economy, as well as policy changes to reduce racial disparities in the economy. ”
Many of Biden's nominees have specifically called for deficit spending to address the pandemic and its economic impact. Boushey and Tanden were among the authors of a recent comment entitled "Deficit and Debt Should Not Be Part of Responding to a Coronavirus Recession". And Yellen made it clear in its Congressional testimony and issued statements that it firmly believes that debt and deficit concerns should take a back seat to a more robust pandemic response. (For more information on how they manage debt and deficit, see this New York Times article.)
A fight ahead? Biden's decisions require Senate approval, and Tanden - known as an outspoken critic of President Trump and several others in the GOP - has already received some setbacks from Republicans who say she is too political and progressive, even when in the Past also conflicted with some on the left.
"I think given their combative and abusive comments about many Senate members, mostly on our side of the aisle, this certainly creates a problematic path," Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said Monday. Drew Brandewie, a Cornyn spokesman, said it had "no chance of being sustained" (the statement assumes Republicans will retain control of the Senate by holding at least one, if not both, Senate seats of Georgia, slated for a January 5th runoff).
Even before the nominations were officially announced, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) slammed Tanden as a "partisan hack". And Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), called her selection a "Sacrifice to the Gods of Confirmation," suggesting that her nomination may have failed in such a way that other nominees are more easily Confirmed.
It is unlikely that Biden intended to do so and could potentially spark a nomination conflict.
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