Biden economic picks show early shape of administration’s pandemic agenda

Biden economic team

Biden’s choices for his economic team are mostly viewed as safe, centrist and experienced — reflecting his reputation as a consensus-builder.

President-elect Joe Biden’s choices to fill key economic positions in his administration telegraph a commitment to assembling a diverse brain trust tasked with supporting an economy struggling against a resurgence of Covid-19.

In addition to nominating former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as treasury secretary, Biden also nominated former Obama economics adviser Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo as deputy secretary of the Treasury. Adeyemo is currently president of the Obama Foundation.

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Neera Tanden was nominated to head the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden is president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, and has a long history of working with Democratic administrations, including a stint as senior adviser for health reform under President Barack Obama.

Biden has also named labor economist Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Two longtime members of his economic inner circle, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, will be Council members.

“By far, Biden’s top two priorities are dealing with the pandemic and the economic consequences,” said Stephen Myrow, managing partner at Beacon Policy Advisors, a policy research consulting firm. “He’s first and foremost looking for people who have a certain amount of experience, and he has preference for people with whom he has a pre-existing working relationship.”

With this potential economic team, Biden is drawing a contrast both with President Donald Trump’s policies and, with his embrace of diversity, his ideological priorities. If confirmed by the Senate, Biden’s slate of nominees would comprise numerous firsts for women and minorities: Yellen would be the first woman to helm the Treasury Department and Adeyemo would be the first African American to serve as deputy secretary. Tanden would be the first woman of color — and the first South Asian American — to lead the Office of Management and Budget, and Rouse would be the first African American to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.

“There’s a huge priority on diversity and probably one that’s been long overdue at this level of government,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “In fielding a diverse set of opinions, ideally, one gets to better solutions.”

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