US President-elect Joe Biden names liberal econ team as pandemic threatens workers

US President-elect Joe Biden names liberal econ team as pandemic threatens workers

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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WILMINGTON, Delaware (AP) — With unemployment still high and the pandemic threatening yet another economic slump, President-elect Joe Biden is assembling a team of liberal advisers who have long focused on the nation's workers and g overnment efforts to address economic inequality.

Janet Yellen, announced Monday (November 30) as Biden's nominee for treasury secretary, served as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, when she placed a greater emphasis than previous Fed chairs on maximising employment and less focus on price inflation. Biden also named Cecilia Rouse as chair of his Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), and Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein as members of the council.

All are outspoken supporters of more government stimulus spending to boost growth, a major issue with the novel coronavirus pandemic cramping the US economy.

Those choices “signal the desire of the Biden Administration to take the CEA in a direction that really centres on working people and raising wages,” said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and former Labor Department chief economist during the Obama Administration.

Biden's nominees are also a more personally diverse group than those of previous presidents.

Yellen, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman to serve as treasury secretary, after breaking ground as the first woman to chair the Fed. Rouse would be the first black woman to lead the CEA in its 74 years of existence. And, Neera Tanden, Biden's pick for director of the Office of Management and Budget, would be the first South Asian American in that job.

Biden also selected Wally Adeyemo to be Yellen's deputy, which would make him the first black deputy treasury secretary. Rouse, Tanden and Adeyemo will all require Senate confirmation, and Tanden, in particular, is already drawing heavy Republican criticism.

Along with its progressive cast, Biden's team also has years of experience in Government and policymaking. And that's earning plaudits from some conservatives, who note that the nominees are not a far-left group bent on strangling the economy, as President Donald Trump repeatedly warned during the 2020 campaign.

“They are intellectual liberals, but not burn-it-all-down socialists,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and an adviser to Senator Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. “They're fairly conventional liberal economists and experts.”

Still, the Biden Administration's ambitious goals will face solid opposition from Republicans in Congress. The GOP needs to win one of two Georgia Senate seats in a January 5 special election to retain control of the Senate, and the Republicans made major inroads on November 3 in the Democrats' House majority.

“Most of the policies that Biden ran on will not survive a Republican Senate,” Riedl said. Those include proposals to raise the minimum wage to US$15 an hour, and significantly increase taxes on wealthy Americans.

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