In their own words: Biden’s economic team vows to rebuild America’s economy better

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U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s nominees and appointees on Tuesday vowed to rebuild the American economy.

The President-elect on Monday announced key members of his economic team, including Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury; Neera Tanden as Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Adewale ‘Wally’ Adeyemo as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury; Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; and Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey as members of the Council of Economic Advisers.

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The nominees and appointees were introduced by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

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Below are their promises in their own words.

Remarks by Nominee for Secretary of Treasury, Janet Yellen in Wilmington, Delaware

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Thank you, Mr. President-elect and Madame Vice President-elect.

It is my great honor to have this opportunity to serve you and the American people, and to join this incredible economic team at this moment of great challenge for our country.

Mr. President-elect, when you reflect on what your father taught you about how a job is much more than a paycheck, I hear my own father, who raised our family in working-class Brooklyn.

When he graduated from medical school during the Great Depression, he looked for a home and a place to hang his shingle near the Brooklyn docks. Back then, Bush Terminal on the Upper New York Bay was a thriving hub for manufacturing and transportation — and for the union workers whose livelihoods depended on them.

Knowing they didn’t have cars, my father found a home near a bus line. He started his family practice in the basement while we lived on the floors above. At the end of the day, he would talk to me, my brother, and my mom about what work meant to his patients — our friends and neighbors — especially if they lost a job. The financial problems. The family problems. The health problems. The loss of dignity and self-worth.

The value of work always stuck with me, so much so that I became an economist because I was concerned about the toll of unemployment on people, families, and communities. And I’ve spent my career trying to make sure people can work and achieve the dignity and self-worth that comes with it.

Mr. President-elect, I know you’ve done the same. I saw that understanding during the last Great Recession and the Recovery Act that followed.

And now we are facing historic crises again. The pandemic and economic fallout that, together, have caused so much damage for so many and have had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable among us. Lost lives. Lost jobs. Small businesses struggling to stay alive or closed for good. So many people struggling to put food on the table and pay bills and rent.

It’s an American tragedy. And it’s essential that we move with urgency. Inaction will produce a self-reinforcing downturn causing yet more devastation.

And we risk missing the obligation to address deeper structural problems:

Inequality. Stagnant wages, especially for workers who lack a college education. Communities that have seen industry disappear, with no good jobs replacing lost ones. Racial disparities in pay, job opportunities, housing, food security, and small business lending that deny wealth building to so many communities of color. Gender disparities that keep women out of the workforce and keep our economy from running at full force.

It is a convergence of tragedies that is not only economically unsustainable, but one that betrays our commitment to giving every American an equal chance to get ahead.

But I know this team will never give up that commitment. As you have said before, Mr. President-elect, 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.

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.

Working together with the outstanding national security and foreign policy team you announced last week, to help restore America’s global leadership.

And above all, we share your belief in the American dream — of a society where each person, with effort, can rise to their potential, and dream even bigger for their children.

I pledge, as Treasury Secretary, to work every day towards rebuilding that dream for all Americans.

And to the great public servants of the Treasury Department, I look forward to working with you and Wally to rebuild the public trust.

To the American people, we will be an institution that wakes up every morning thinking about you.

Your jobs, your paychecks. Your struggles, your hopes. Your dignity.

Thank you.

Remarks by Nominee for OMB Director, Neera Tanden in Wilmington, Delaware

Mr. President-elect, Madame Vice President-elect — I’m humbled and honored by the trust you’ve placed in me to work with this talented team on behalf of the American people.

I’m especially proud to work alongside leaders who understand that budgets are not abstractions.

They are a reflection of our values. They touch our lives in profound ways. Sometimes, they make all the difference.

Like the Vice President-elect’s mother, Shyamala, my mother, Maya, was born in India.

Like so many millions, across every generation, she came to America to pursue a better life.

I was raised in a suburb of Boston — a middle-class kid.

But when I was five, my parents got divorced and my mom was left on her own with two children — and without a job.

She faced a choice — return to India, where at the time divorce was stigmatized and opportunity would be limited — or keep fighting for her American Dream.

She stayed, and America came through for her when times were tough.

We 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.

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.

I’m here today thanks to my mother’s grit, but also thanks to a country that had faith in us, that invested in her humanity, and in our dreams.

I’m here today because of social programs. Because of budgetary choices.

Because of a government that saw my mother’s dignity, and gave her a chance.

Now, it’s my honor to help shape those budgets and programs to keep lifting Americans up, to pull families back from the brink. To give everybody the fair chance my mother got, and that everyone deserves.

That’s the America Maya and Shyamala were drawn to — the America the President-elect and Vice President-elect are ready to grow.

I believe so 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.

I look forward to working together alongside the dedicated career professionals at OMB to expand those possibilities for every American family.

And I want to thank my own wonderful family — my husband, Ben, without whose love and support I would simply not be here, and our children, Alina and Jaden.

Thank you all for this profound opportunity to serve.

Remarks by Nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Wally Adeyemo in Wilmington, Delaware

Mr. President-elect, Madame Vice President-elect — thank you for this opportunity to return to the Treasury Department and serve the American people.

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.

In California’s Inland Empire, where I‘d grown up in a working-class neighborhood, the Great Recession hit us hard — we were one of the foreclosure capitals in the United States.

The pain of this was real for me — it wasn’t just a number in a jobs report or a story on the nightly news — but neighbors and friends who lost everything.

I was proud of the work my teams did at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Treasury Department to help turn the tide.

I was prouder still to serve with leaders like the President-elect, who oversaw the Recovery Act’s implementation — investing in American workers, betting on their resilience and drive, and giving families a chance to get up off the mat.

I believe that’s what public service is all about at its best: Giving people a fair shot when they need it most, offering hope through the dark times, and making sure that our economy works not just for the wealthy, but for the hard-working people who make it run.

Those are lessons I learned from my parents — an elementary school principal and a nurse, who came to America to build a better life for me and my siblings.

They taught us that we have a responsibility to serve our community and the country that gave us so many opportunities, but I also learned early on how much more needs to be done to ensure that everyone has the fair chance they deserve.

I look forward to working with Janet Yellen to reduce inequality in this country and expand the middle class, and make sure we build an economy that works for everyone.

As we build back better, we must also remain laser-focused on the Treasury Department’s critical role protecting our National Security.

This includes using our sanctions regime to hold bad actors accountable, dismantling the financial networks of terrorist organizations and others who seek to do us harm, and ensuring our foreign investment policy protects America’s national security interests.

The challenges before us today are unlike anything we have ever faced.

But I know that what the President-elect so often reminds us is true — the American people can do anything when given a chance.

I’m honored to be a part of this talented team, to get to work with them and all Americans, to build an economy that gives everyone that chance, and turns our nation once again from crisis to hope.

Thank you.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Nominee for CEA Chair, Cecilia Rouse in Wilmington, Delaware

Good afternoon.

Mr. President-elect, Madame Vice President-elect — thank you for the extraordinary opportunity to join this team.

I am humbled and honored, and ready to get to work for the American people.

To be perfectly honest, until recently I did not anticipate that I would return to public service.

As every academic knows, when you’ve laid down roots at a school you love, with incredible students and colleagues you’ve grown with, it isn’t easy to take a leave. It requires a rare combination of urgency and opportunity to pull you away.

But that rare combination is precisely what our nation is facing right now.

My path as an economist began in my first year of college — my mother, a school psychologist, encouraged me to take a course in economics, and it happened to coincide with what at the time was one of the worst spikes in unemployment since the Great Depression.

It was impossible to separate what we were learning in the classroom from what I knew was going on in towns across the country, and I found myself drawn to study the labor market in all of its dimensions — the reasons that jobs disappear; the impact of education on people’s job prospects; the ways we can tear down barriers to job growth and make it easier for people to find long-lasting economic security.

Today, nearly forty years later, we are once again living through one of the worst jobs crises since the Great Depression.

Millions of families have had their lives turned upside down. 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.

This is a moment of urgency and opportunity unlike anything we’ve faced in modern times.

The urgency of ending a devastating crisis.

And the opportunity to build a better economy in its wake — an economy that works for everyone, brings fulfilling job opportunities, and leaves no one to fall through the cracks.

I look forward to working with the President-elect, the Vice President-elect, and this entire team to address that urgency and seize that opportunity — and make our economic system work better for every American.

Thank you.

Remarks by Appointee for Member of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein in Wilmington, Delaware

Good afternoon.

I’m hard-pressed to find the words to express my gratitude to the President-elect and Vice President-elect for the chance to be here today.

In thinking about the path that brought me here, a good place to start is 12 years ago — almost to the day — when I met with then-Vice-President-elect Biden at his home not far from here.

It was supposed to be a job interview to be his chief economist, but it quickly turned into a conversation about economic justice and fairness — which, as many here know, is a common destination in conversations with the President-elect.

Over the years, we’ve continued that discussion.

Often, it takes the form of some policy minutiae — sometimes, it’s me hitting him with far more graphics than are necessary, or him telling me to stop speaking econo-mese and start speaking English.

Guilty as charged, Mr. President-elect.

I suspect the reason we had such a meeting of the minds back then dates back to a common saying in my household when I was growing up: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

I grew up with a single mother — a lifelong educator.

There was a picture of FDR on the wall. Her proudest moment wasn’t when I got a PhD.

It was when I got a union card — Local 802, the New York City’s musicians’ union — but that’s a whole other story.

Of course, if you intend to be part of the solution, you need to accurately diagnose the problem.

On that front, I believe the team assembled by the President-elect and Vice President-elect has been resonant and visionary.

Yes, they’ve stressed the urgent need to control the virus and provide the relief needed to help families and businesses get to the other side of this crisis.

But they’ve been just as adamant that simply getting back to where we were sets the bar too low — we must build back an economy that’s far more resilient, far more fair, and far more inclusive.

It is precisely the vision this nation needs, and I suspect I’m not the only person on this stage champing at the bit to get to work on making their vision a reality.

Thank you.

Remarks by Appointee for Member of the Council of Economic Advisers, Heather Boushey in Wilmington, Delaware

Mr. President-elect, Madame Vice President-elect — I am honored and grateful for the chance to be a part of this exceptional team — and excited to get to work helping build an economy rooted in the values we share:

Equality, opportunity, and the dignity of work.

It’s no accident that I’ve focused my career on instilling those values in our economy, developing policies that help our nation grow stronger by growing more equitably.

Like the President-elect and the Vice President-elect, those values were instilled in me at a young age.

In the late 1970s, my dad got a job at Boeing — and if you grew up in Seattle like I did, you know what that means.

A lot more than a paycheck, as Janet referenced, and as the President-elect often reminds us.

And for our family, my dad’s job at Boeing meant security, union benefits, a place in the neighborhood, a place in the middle class.

But when a recession hit in the early 80s, one by one, the pink slips arrived for every family on our cul-de-sac.

Every kid at my bus stop had a parent who was laid off. Our entire community saw its future dimmed, and one day, it was my turn.

So the first time I truly experienced this thing called the economy, it was my parents sitting me down and explaining that things were going to be tougher for a while because my dad was on layoff.

Too many kids in America experience the economy through those difficult conversations — or far worse.

I was struck by the profound power this mysterious force held over my life, my friends, and my community.

And I wondered if that power couldn’t also be wielded to create happier conversations and fuller lives.

I’ve dedicated my career to figuring out how we can grow and sustain the middle class — and uproot the gender barriers and racial barriers that leave too many Americans outside the Dream, looking in.

Through the organization I co-founded, I’ve pursued solutions to reverse the dangerous march of inequality, and bring us back to the core value of broadly-shared success.

That’s the same value I see at the heart of the Build Back Better plan — and it’s why I’m excited and honored to help this team bring not just good jobs — but the good lives and peace of mind that come with them to every American community.

Thank you.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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