On Biden’s Economic Picks

Terry H. Schwadron

Dec. 2, 2020

So, if I was hearing it correctly, it’s okay to Senate Republicans that Joe Biden announced an economic team that wants to be aggressive about more government stimulus, but immediately drawn to attack the nominee to run the Office and Management and Budget because she is too outspoken?

Of the set of people lined up to overturn Donald Trump’s tax policies, to build out improvements to health care, to insist on pumping more money into coronavirus protections, Republicans have decided to target the person charged with making the budget? She is Neera Tanden, chief executive of the Center for American Progress and the first Indian-American to lead the office if confirmed, who over time has angered both conservatives and progressives by an active Twitter feed. On Twitter, Tanden has attacked GOP Trump “enablers” as well as journalists.

I’ll admit, I’m a little confused here. Don’t we have a president who thinks Twitter is for insults and firings?

What I heard in Joe Biden’s picks were that he wasn’t going to give in to give the Treasury job to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, choosing Janet Yellin, the former head of the Fed, instead — specifically to allow Republicans to accept that the choice was for experience and moderation even in opposition to Trump-o-nomics. Others are members of his Council of Economic Advisers: Princeton University economist Cecilia Rouse; Jared Bernstein, who advised the former vice president, and Heather Boushey, head of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

And he had a host of others of similar political ilk, more interested in using government power to help working folks than corporations, yes, but short of any labeling that Republicans would translate as “socialist,” though they seem to suggest that label for any program not of their own making.

Still, some progressives and several Republicans immediately honed in on Tanden, but more about her combativeness on Twitter towards both supporters of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump than for her general support for economic views.

She is a “nut job,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who promised tough questioning during any pending confirmation hearing. Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, said Tanden “strikes me as maybe [Biden’s] worst nominee so far. She’s going to be radioactive.”

The Job At Hand

Personally, I don’t care much about the names. What matters is that they know what they are doing, that they work efficiently as a team, and address the real problems in the economy.

The pandemic is wrecking an economy that was unequal in its effects even before last Spring.

Trump’s reelection campaign was all in on making more of the same — using permanent tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that were never paid for to goose growth of bigger industries towards record employment numbers and record corporate profits, all at the expense and promise to cut or limit federal Medicare and Medicaid monies, to attack the Social Security system, to further reduce federal employees, and to starve states of aid needed for coronavirus.

Biden’s putative approach is a collaborative one, seeking a different way on each of those Trump agendas, to increase minimum wage, guarantee more health care rather than less, to attack climate as much as a jobs issue as an environmental problem, to “build back better” through public infrastructure projects in a way that acknowledges inequities affecting the middle class and workers.

Once the talk can stop about the obvious demographics of the top posts — Biden’s choices clearly are more racially and gender diverse than had been Trump’s — perhaps we can focus on what this team is saying rather than the names of the people making the remarks.

Generally speaking, the appointments represent a solid front for more government spending, as opposed to Republicans who just noticed that the Trump years had ballooned the deficit by $7 trillion.

Power Politics

It is exactly there that I have a problem with the Senate Republican reactions to Neera Tandan. Do they think that she will have an independent, free hand to express her aggressive tweet personality in the federal budget — the first proposal of which is due just weeks after inauguration?

Isn’t that why Biden not only has himself, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, but Yellin, the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the rest of the slate he named?

Forget for a moment that Biden probably has the right to name his people, just as Trump did; it seems outlandish on its face that Republicans want to sit in judgment on the personal politics of Cabinet nominees chosen exactly for their political leanings as well as their experience. These are the same Republicans who thought Trump was perfectly fine in naming people like Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Scott Pruitt and Ben Carson to oversee agencies that they themselves had distrusted?

What does that say about judgment criteria here?

Obviously, this is all about the push and pull of power, and the exercise of trying to show Biden who’s really in control even before Day One.

Neera Tandan aside — who cares, really — this gridlock approach is not what we voted for in this election.



Journalist, musician, community volunteer