Biden introduces economic team in Wilmington

WILMINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden introduced six members of his economic team Tuesday.

Joe Biden

“This team is tested and experienced,” the president-elect said at a press conference. “It includes groundbreaking Americans who come from different backgrounds but share my core economic vision.”

Those introduced included Janet Yellen, the nominee for secretary of the treasury; Wally Adeyemo, the nominee for deputy secretary of the treasury; and Neera Tanden, tapped to direct the Office of Management and Budget, as well as nominees to the leadership of the Council of Economic Advisers.

President-elect Biden has dubbed his economic vision the “Build Back Better” plan.

He said that according to a study conducted by Wall Street firm Moody’s, the plan will create 18.6 million jobs.

“It’s based on a simple premise,” the president-elect said. “Reward hard work in America, not wealth.”

He said the country’s main goal should be to keep schools and businesses open.

“We have to make sure that businesses and workers have the tools, resources, guidance and health and safety standards to operate safely,” President-elect Biden said.

He said “urgent relief” is needed for states, municipalities and working people.

“This includes affordable health care for millions of people who have lost it or are in danger of losing it,” the president-elect said, as well as “child care, sick leave, family leave, so workers don’t have to choose between work and family.”

He said it’s time that the country “invest in infrastructure, clean energy and climate change (and) manufacturing” and “address the structural inequalities in our economy that the pandemic has laid bare.”

“We need to support small businesses and entrepreneurs that form the backbone of our communities but are teetering on the edge,” he said.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris revealed stats that portray in clear terms how COVID-19 has ravaged the nation’s economic security.

Kamala Harris

“Across America, one in six adults with children say their families are hungry. One in three adults are having trouble paying their bills,” she said.

“The number of open small businesses has fallen by nearly 30% due to this pandemic, while many others are hoping they can stay afloat until a vaccine is available,” the vice president-elect said.

President-elect Biden couched his economic vision in parables about his father, a working-class man from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who moved his family to Claymont to find a job.

To head the Department of the Treasury, President-elect Biden tapped Ms. Yellen, who said both long-standing structural inequities and new economic problems wrought by COVID-19 have melded into a “convergence of tragedies” for the American working class.

Janet Yellen

“Out of our collective pain as a nation, we will find a collective purpose to control the pandemic and build our economy back better than before,” she said.

She framed the country’s economy through the American dream, a concept which she defined.

“We share your belief in the American dream,” she said, “of a society where each person, with effort, can rise to their potential and dream even bigger for their children.”

To make this dream a reality, Ms. Yellen laid out a few overarching goals.

“To rebuild our infrastructure and create better jobs. To invest in our workforce. To advance racial equity and make sure the economic recovery includes everyone. To address the climate crisis with American ingenuity and American jobs,” she said.

President-elect Biden also introduced Mr. Adeyemo as his nominee to work directly under Ms. Yellen, as deputy secretary of the treasury.

“I know firsthand the president-elect’s capacity to lift our country out of hard times because I had the privilege of working with him to help Americans recover from the Great Recession,” Mr. Adeyemo said.

“The pain of this was real for me,” he said of the nation’s last economic crisis. “In California’s Inland Empire, where I’d grown up in a working-class neighborhood, the Great Recession hit us hard.”

For him, “it wasn’t just a number in a jobs report or a story on the nightly news, but neighbors and friends who lost everything.”

Ms. Tanden was named the Biden nominee to direct the Office of Management and Budget.

“I’m especially proud to work alongside leaders who understand that budgets are not abstractions,” she said. “They are a reflection of our values. They touch our lives in profound ways. Sometimes, they make all the difference.”

She believes strongly that “our government is meant to serve all the American people — Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike — all of whom deserve to know that their government has their back.”

Ms. Tanden said she looks “forward to working together alongside the dedicated career professionals at OMB to expand those possibilities for every American family.”

President-elect Biden also nominated three people to be members of the Council of Economic Advisers.

For the chair of the CEA, President-elect Biden nominated Cecilia Rouse, the dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic has created the worst American jobs crisis since the Great Depression.

“Millions of families have had their lives turned upside down,” she said. “The safety net has frayed, leaving vulnerable Americans to slip through into hardship and hopelessness, and structural inequities that have always existed in our economy are being exacerbated like never before.”

She described the current crisis as both urgent and a great opportunity to build “an economy that works for everyone, brings fulfilling job opportunities and leaves no one to fall through the cracks.”

For chair positions on the Council of Economic Advisers, the president-elect nominated two beltway economists.

Jared Bernstein, a veteran of the Obama administration, was introduced, along with Heather Boushey, who runs a D.C. think tank called the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

The Biden transition team’s presentation focused to a great degree on the working-class backgrounds and ethnic diversity of these nominees.

Ms. Yellen recalled her roots as the daughter of a family physician serving Brooklyn, New York’s long-gone working-class, union-aligned dockworker population.

Mr. Adeyemo, who was born in Nigeria, and Ms. Rouse were introduced to the nation as important voices for the African American community.

Ms. Tanden compared her own mother’s background as an immigrant from India to the origin story of Vice President-elect Harris’ mother.

She also recalled how her mother struggled to support her children in the U.S. after a divorce.

“She faced a choice,” Ms. Tanden said. “Return to India, where at the time, divorce was stigmatized and opportunity would be limited, or keep fighting for her American dream.”

She said the family “relied on food stamps to eat. We relied on Section 8 vouchers to pay the rent. We relied on the social safety net to get back on our feet.”

“This country gave her a fair shot to reach for the middle class, and she made it work,” Ms. Tanden said. “She got a job as a travel agent, and before long, she was able to buy us our own home in Bedford, Massachusetts, and see her children off to college and beyond.”

Vice President-elect Harris described the nation as united.

“Americans are not united by their worries alone,” she said. “They’re united by their aspirations — for themselves and their families.”

“No matter where you live or what language your grandmother speaks, everyone wants to be able to get a job and keep a job,” the vice president-elect said.

“No matter what your gender or who you love, everyone wants to be able to buy a home and keep a home,” she said. “And no matter how you worship or who you voted for in this election, everyone wants to be able to give their children a decent education, even during a pandemic.

“Joe and I understand that,” the vice president-elect said. “We were raised to respect the dignity of work.”