‘American tragedy’: Yellen warns Biden team of need for urgency to avert ‘self-reinforcing downturn’

Ms Yellen sees recovery from Covid as chance to address ‘deeper structural problems’ in US economy

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 01 December 2020 20:35 GMT
Yellen warns of the need for urgency to avoid Covid 'self-reinforcing downturn'
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Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve and Joe Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, offered a grim assessment of the state of the US economy in remarks at the official announcement of her nomination.

Referring to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Ms Yellen said that both the virus and the economic fallout had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable parts of the population, with people struggling to put food on the table and small businesses struggling to stay open.

“It’s an American tragedy, and it’s essential that we move with urgency,” she said. “Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation.”

On the Biden campaign theme of “Build back better”, Ms Yellen sees the recovery from Covid as a chance to address “deeper structural problems” in the American economy, such as stagnant wages, food security, and gender and racial economic disparity.

This “convergence of tragedies” is not just economically unsustainable in Ms Yellen’s eyes, but betrays a commitment to giving all Americans an equal chance to get ahead.

“I know this team will never give up that commitment,” she says of Mr Biden’s nominees for key economic positions in his administration.

Closing her brief remarks, Ms Yellen pledged that as treasury secretary she would work every day towards rebuilding the American dream, and that she looked forward to working with the great public servants of the Treasury department to rebuild public trust.

“We will be an institution that wakes up every morning thinking about you, your jobs, your paychecks, your struggles, your hopes, your dignity, and your potential,” she said.

Ms Yellen would be the first-ever female secretary of the Treasury. She was also the first female chair of the Federal Reserve.

Her deputy, if both are confirmed, will be Wally Adeyemo, formerly of the Obama administration in which he held a number of roles, including deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Mr Biden also named Cecilia Rouse as chair of his Council of Economic Advisers, and Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein as members of the council.

Neera Tanden, is the president-elect’s pick for director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Ms Yellen, Ms Rouse, Ms Tanden, and Mr Adeyemo all require Senate confirmation

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