Washington: US President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled his top economic advisers, declaring, "I know times are tough, but I want you to know that help is on the way."
Biden said he had chosen a "first-rate team" that is "tested and experienced" to help the country recover from the increase in unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The members of his economic team – led by Janet Yellen, Biden's nominee for Treasury secretary – have a record of promoting measures to reduce economic inequality and reining in the power of big corporations.
Janet Yellen said the economic damage caused by the coronavirus was an “American tragedy”. Credit:AP
But Biden's selection for the key post of director of the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, looks set to face a difficult confirmation process thanks to her history of criticising Republican senators on Twitter.
The US unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent has come down in recent months but still remains twice as high as February, before the pandemic hit the country.
More workers are expected to be laid off over winter, as the virus continues to spread and restaurants and bars struggle to cope with big reductions in outdoor drinking and dining.
Biden promised that the US would emerge from the pandemic with an economy that is dramatically reshaped to better stamp out economic inequality.
"From the most unequal economic and job crisis in modern history, we can build a new American economy that works for all Americans, not just some," he said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden was wearing a black walking boot after breaking two small bones in his right foot while playing with one of his dogs over the weekend.
Like his foreign policy and national security nominees, many members of Biden's economic team held senior roles in the Obama administration. He noted that many of them had worked with him on efforts to kickstart the American economy following the 2008 global financial crisis.
Wally Adeyemo who President-elect Joe Biden nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.Credit:AP
Yellen, Biden’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, served as chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, when she placed a greater emphasis than previous Fed chairs on maximising employment and less focus on price inflation.
Cecilia Rouse, Biden's pick to be chair of his Council of Economic Advisers, served as a member of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers as well as an economic adviser to Bill Clinton.
Yellen said the economic havoc caused by the pandemic was "an American tragedy".
"To the American people: we will be an institution that wakes up every morning thinking about you," Yellen said of the Treasury Department. "Your jobs, your paychecks, your struggles, your hopes, your dignity and your limitless potential."
If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first woman to serve as treasury secretary, after breaking ground as the first woman to chair the Fed.
“We might have to ask Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote a musical about the first secretary of the treasury, Hamilton, to write another musical about the female secretary of the treasury,” Biden joked.
Rouse would be the first black woman to lead the Council of Economic Advisers in its 74 years of existence. The president-elect also selected Wally Adeyemo to be Yellen’s deputy, which would make him the first black Deputy Treasury Secretary.
Tanden would be the first South Asian American in that job.
Republican Senator John Cornyn said Tanden, a Hillary Clinton ally who had led the centre-left Centre for American Progress think tank, was "radioactive" and maybe Biden's "worst nominee so far".
"I think, in light of her combative and insulting comments about many members of the Senate, mainly on our side of the aisle, that it creates certainly a problematic path [to being confirmed]," he said this week.
Republican Senator John Cornyn said Neera Tanden – Joe Biden’s choice to lead a key government agency – would face a difficult confirmation process. Credit:Andrew Harrer
Tanden recently deleted around 1000 tweets, including some in which she criticised moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins.
"I do not know her or much about her, but I’ve heard she’s a very prolific user of Twitter," Collins said this week.
All of Biden's picks are outspoken supporters of more government stimulus spending to boost growth.
Biden called on Congress to pass immediate pandemic relief funding before he takes office, but said this was "likely to be at best just a start" to the financial support that will be needed.
He said his transition team is "already working on what I’ll put forward in the next Congress to address the multiple crises we’re facing".
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