Consider the economic team that Biden has been rolling out, and that he formally introduced on Tuesday. This promised to be an area of significant risk, because progressives worried he would do what President Barack Obama did and hire a group of people who were either from Wall Street or sympathetic to its desires. They were preparing to bring all kinds of heat down on Biden if he went that route.
But, for the most part, that hasn’t happened. Biden has found people such as Janet L. Yellen, who is to be nominated for treasury secretary, who can satisfy nearly everyone in the party. Each slightly more centrist adviser seems counterweighted by a more liberal one.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some potentially controversial picks. But even those are not engendering howls of outrage.
In the short term, the most important thing for Biden and his team to do is ignore disingenuous Republican bleating about the deficit and go full-bore on as much stimulus as is necessary to pull the country out of its current economic crisis. And, on that, all Biden’s advisers — even those who at some point in the past might have talked about deficit reduction — seem united.
As The Post’s David J. Lynch reports, Biden has “filled out his economic team with experts who have called for rebuilding the economy first and dealing with deficit concerns later.” Everyone seems to have learned from Obama’s experience, in which Republicans forced him to accept austerity policies that hampered the recovery from the Great Recession.
But what about the advisers that have received criticism? The left’s response to them seems calibrated not to signal a major battle to come. The tone has been less “This will not stand!” and more “We have some concerns.”
Consider Brian Deese, the former Obama administration official who will likely be named head of the National Economic Council, the chief economic adviser in the White House. Deese has been working at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and progressive activist Jeff Hauser argued, Deese’s relationship to BlackRock “makes it less likely that the federal government will rein in BlackRock.”
On the other hand, Deese’s job at BlackRock was to promote investments in clean energy. His title was “Global Head of Sustainable Investing,” and he does receive praise from some liberals for that work.
Then there’s Jeffrey Zients, another former Obama aide with a long relationship with Biden. His work running an investment fund has raised some hackles on the left, but it may be muted by the fact that he’s known for his administrative problem-solving acumen (the phrase “Mr. Fix-It” often gets brought up), and he is slated to be Biden’s covid czar, a position that will be more about effective organizing and implementing than economic policymaking.
One more: Yellen’s deputy at the Treasury Department will be Wally Adeyemo, yet another former Obama official who went from there to BlackRock. While some have worried that he’ll be a Wall Street voice in Yellen’s ear, he also helped Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect reports that Warren will support Adeyemo’s nomination.
As we think about these nominations and more to come, it’s important to remember that no one is indispensable. There are plenty of talented people out there for every position, and when someone controversial gets floated — for instance, former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is reportedly being considered for transportation secretary — one has to ask whether having them would be worth whatever hassle they might bring Biden and his administration.
Of course, you could ask that about a particularly liberal nominee Biden might choose, if they became a source of unusual criticism from the right. That’s surely one reason Biden is avoiding picking well-known figures such as Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for Cabinet posts, which would result in major confirmation battles.
But, so far, Biden continues to navigate a center-left course as president-elect, making sure his picks avoid too much dissension within the Democratic Party while assuring the broader public that he’s not planning anything radical. That was his strategy to get elected, too, and it worked out pretty well for him.