Biden’s Economic Team–Warren, Yang, Sanders?

Though President Trump has not conceded, Joe Biden is busy preparing for a government transition to his new Administration.

Front and center on the agenda: the economy.

But, it’s unclear whether Biden will follow the centrist values he espouses…or move increasingly to the left, as so many of his supporters demand.

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From my perspective, one of the most frustrating aspects of Biden’s campaign was his refusal to “drill-down” on policy. Instead, candidate Biden preferred to emphasize character issues, thereby making this election a personality choice as opposed to a choice about future economic (and foreign) policy.

As such, America is left questioning HOW Joe Biden would go about re-engaging the U.S. economy as it emerges from what looks increasingly like a new economic shutdown.

Will The Real Joe Biden Please Stand Up?

If he becomes President, one of Biden’s most critical contributions to everyday Americans will be his economic policies–and thus, his economic team will have an enormous impact. But which Joe Biden will we get? Is it the centrist Joe Biden with ties to big-money donors, the Joe Biden from the Obama administration, or Joe Biden the progressive?

The answer will be found amongst the team he chooses.

Already, “progressives” are lining up for key jobs in his administration. From Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren to Andrew Yang. The embrace of socialist principles could mean the capitalist values that have empowered America to become the largest economy in the world, could be in for a total remake.

Socialist Bernie Sanders, who nearly beat Biden for the nomination, is said to be positioning himself for the role of Labor Secretary. Indeed, he told a CNN anchor he’d absolutely consider the job and has allegedly even reached out to AFL-CIO union head Richard Trumka for support.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren’s name has been floated as Treasury Secretary. She’s ambitious and would likely jump at the opportunity, but her zeal for regulations –along with personality challenges with Biden himself, could put her at odds with his centrist agenda.

Andrew Yang, a progressive best known for his campaign promise of a “basic income” for every American, may also be in the running for a key cabinet position. He’s a likable fresh face in a sea of D.C. “lifers” and may become a helpful bridge for Biden, as he tries to extend himself to the uber left wing of the party (while still not scaring the establishment types.)

But, my hope is that a Joe Biden presidency won’t be too extreme. If conservatives can keep the Senate, then Biden’s influence will be inconsequential at best. And, that’s good for him. After all, his only goal should be to not ruin a good thing (lower taxes and regulations.)

Established Washington Economists

Nonetheless, that won’t stop Biden and his team from trying to remake policy initiatives. As such, keep an eye on former members of Obama and Biden’s economic team-members who may be tapped for another stint in the White House. Jared Bernstein, Lael Brainard, Austan Goolsbee, and Ben Harris are all strong contenders for big jobs given their vast experience. Goolsbee, in particular, has a knack for communicating an economic message to a mass audience and has stood out as a commentator in the cable-TV world. While I may not always agree with him, I have always appreciated his candor and colorful approach to explaining sophisticated topics–as well as his willingness to engage in lively, intellectual debate. His persona and presence could prove tremendously valuable to a Biden administration looking to communicate its economic message.

Wall Street Titans

Meanwhile, if a Biden administration wanted to pack some real economic punch? It needs to look to the titans of Wall Street. From JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon to Evercore’s Roger Altman to Blackrock’s Larry Fink, there is a wealth of knowledgeable, experienced individuals who might consider a tour through Washington (Altman already worked in Treasury in both the Carter and Clinton administrations.) Whether or not they’re willing to leave their day jobs is another question entirely. Nonetheless, these would be some smart names for any future President to keep on speed dial.

Should Biden assume the office of the Presidency this January, his administration will be confronted with the reality of an economy still trying to recover from the onslaught of this great pandemic.

Challenging Times Ahead With Additional Shutdowns

Though we registered historic growth levels in the third quarter, the continuation of that growth will depend on the nation’s response to increasing Covid-19 cases. Another shutdown will cost the nation immeasurably, yet, given recent statements from Biden’s Covid-19 task force member, Dr. Michael Osterholm, it’s clear a Biden administration won’t rule it out.

If so, major economic creativity will be needed. Creativity, that is, and skill.

As such, let’s hope he’s got a deep bench of economic gurus on whom he can depend.


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