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Fast Thinking November 23, 2020

FAST THINKING: It’s Yellen for Treasury

By Atlantic Council


Joe Biden’s selections for key cabinet positions continue apace with Janet Yellen, his reported nominee to lead the Treasury Department. Yellen, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman to hold the post. She’d face an economy devastated by the coronavirus and the haphazard response to it in Washington. For insight into how she might manage a difficult recovery, we turned to the Atlantic Council’s resident economics guru, Josh Lipsky.


Why is there so much buzz around this pick?

  • A historic choice: Yellen would be ”the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its 231-year history. But it is historic for other reasons as well. If confirmed, she will become the first person in forty years to serve both as Treasury Secretary and chair of the Federal Reserve. At a time when monetary policy is becoming a more dominant force in the global economy, there may be no one better positioned for this role than Janet Yellen.”
  • Breadth of experience: “Yellen is a world-renowned labor economist and was chair of the Council of Economic Advisors and president of the Reserve Bank of San Francisco. All of this has prepared her to tackle the biggest economic challenge of her career.”

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Is she right for this moment?

  • Searching for economic equity: “Throughout her research and public service, Dr. Yellen’s focus has been building more resilient economies for all citizens. Some of her most influential research centered on equal pay for women—a particularly important topic considering COVID-19 has a disproportionate economic impact on women.”
  • A daunting to-do list: “The G20 needs clear leadership to coordinate a new round of fiscal stimulus, the US economic situation is looking more precarious as the virus rages, and the financial sector still remains vulnerable to shocks. Tackling all of these issues will require a whole-of-government approach, and here Dr. Yellen’s relationship with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, forged during their time together there, may help them to become a dynamic duo. Equally important, she is known throughout the economic community as a wonderful mentor and teacher.”

What does her appointment say about Biden’s thinking?

  • Re-establishing American leadership: “By choosing Dr. Yellen to be the 78th Secretary of the treasury in a time of economic crisis, Biden has sent a clear signal that America is ready to once again assume the role of a collaborative economic leader. That is a message the world—ravaged by COVID-19—has been waiting to hear.”

Further reading

Related Experts: Josh Lipsky

Image: Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference after a two-day Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) policy meeting in Washington, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts