President-elect chooses most diverse economics team in US history

Joe Biden is pressing ahead with forming his government by announcing his picks for some of the top jobs in his economic team.

A number of his choices are set to make history – together they make up the country’s most diverse economic leadership team ever.

His picks include the first woman to head up the US Treasury, the first black person to deputise and the first women of colour leading the Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisers.

The president-elect is also clearly keen to surround himself with heavyweights. Many of his nominees have decades of economic experience, in government, in academia and at America’s central bank.

The transition team said this team would help “lift America out of the current economic downturn and build back better”.

Janet Yellen – Nominee for Treasury Secretary

If confirmed, Janet Yellen will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its nearly 232 year history.

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She is a highly regarded economist having formerly chaired the US Federal Reserve and worked as a senior economic adviser to President Bill Clinton.

She led America’s central bank between 2014-2018 and served as vice chair before that. Markets rallied last week when it was first made clear last week she would be appointed.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during her last news conference in office December 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Yellen announced that the Federal Reserve is raising the interest rates by a quarter point to 1.5%. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Image:Janet Yellen will be the first woman treasury secretary

She is widely credited with having helped lead America through the recession following the 2008 financial crash and has spoken about the need to address challenges ranging from inequality, financial exclusion and climate change.

Donald Trump broke with the tradition that usually sees presidents reappoint their predecessor’s choice to head up the Federal Reserve for a second term, hence Yellen only served one four year term at the bank.

Her breadth of experience and beliefs are likely to make her palatable to both progressive Democrats and Republicans.

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Who else is on the list?

This will be the most diverse economics team in American history.

For the first time the Deputy Treasury Secretary will be black. Nigerian born Wally Adeyemo served in a number of economic advisory positions under Barack Obama and is currently the CEO of the not-for-profit Obama Foundation.

In addition to Janet Yellen there will also be three other women in senior positions, two of colour.

Neera Tanden, a former adviser to both Obama and Hillary Clinton and CEO of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress has been appointed to serve as Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Cecilia Rouse, a labour economist and senior academic at Princeton University, is Biden’s pick to serve as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

Both will be the first women of colour in their roles.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Heather Boushey (C) participates in a panel discussion about the release of a new report authored by Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz published by the Roosevelt Institute May 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. The report, titled "New Economic Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity", discusses the current distribution of wealth in the U.S. and offers proposals for modifying that distribution. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Image:Heather Boushey will serve on the Council of Economic Advisers

Ms Rouse has previously served on the CEA and earlier this year she organised a letter signed by 100 economists calling for more action to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Underneath her on the CEA, Biden has appointed Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey. Both have distinguished economic backgrounds and both advised Biden during the presidential campaign.

Why has Neera Tanden’s nomination caused controversy?

Neera Tanden is the daughter of Indian immigrants and as well as being a longstanding Hillary Clinton ally, she served as a healthcare adviser to President Obama playing a role in formulating the Affordable Care Act – or ‘Obamacare’.

But her nomination to lead the US Budget Department has drawn criticism from both the left and the right.

This matters because her appointment needs Senate confirmation, and unless the Democrats can win two razor tight Senate runoffs in Georgia, it’s likely to be controlled by the Republicans.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 29: Neera Tanden participates in a panel discussion during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 29, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
Image:Neera Tanden is facing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans

Progressive Democrats don’t like her because she’s been an outspoken critic of key figures from that wing of the party including Bernie Sanders.

They see her politics as too far to the right, some have today circulated old tweets from her supporting, amongst other things, Donald Trump’s policies on social security.

While on the other side Republicans don’t like her because of her record of very public criticism and jibes aimed at their leaders.

A spokesman for one Senate Republican said she “stands zero chance of being confirmed”.

Confirming Ms Tanden in her position may be Biden’s first major test in the Senate.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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