Biden's genius move

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President-elect Joe Biden named key members of his economic team on Monday, with the long-expected announcement of Janet Yellen as treasury secretary along with three other women in top roles.

Posted: Dec 1, 2020 3:31 PM
Updated: Dec 1, 2020 3:31 PM

As President-elect Joe Biden unveils his choices for the top jobs in his administration, we hear a mixture of rejoicing and disappointment, praise and criticism from the world of politicians and pundits. It's not easy pleasing every faction, including in the ideologically fractured Democratic Party.

One Biden choice, however, stands out as sheer genius. His selection of Janet Yellen as nominee for Treasury Secretary, manages the nearly impossible feat of threading the needle between Democrats and Republicans, progressives and centrists, Wall Street and Main Street.

If anyone other than Donald Trump were president today, Yellen would likely still be chairing the Federal Reserve Board. She was in the job when he became president, but Trump, who likes to hire people who look like the Hollywood version of their role, broke with tradition and failed to reappoint her when her first term expired. This was at least in part, because (according to a Washington Post account) he thought she was too short.

She is 5 feet tall, and a towering economist.

The 74-year-old does not seek to draw the spotlight, but it will find her. Don't be surprised if her fashion trademark, a turned-up collar, catches on.

Biden's choices have garnered much attention for their unprecedented diversity. Observers have noted the depth of experience and qualifications of the candidates; others have pointed to the fascinating backgrounds of his fledgling team. But beyond bringing together women, men, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans and people of a wide range of ages, Biden is infusing the government with a level of expertise -- and experience -- that has a strong chance of bringing results.

There's a reason why when news that Yellen was going to Treasury got out the stock market rocketed to new heights and praise arrived from all quarters. It's not often that you hear admiration for the same person from rightist and left-leaning economists.

That is likely because Yellen is an economist's economist. (She is also the mother of an economist and the wife of one, George Akerlof, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.) In addition to chairing the Federal Reserve towards the end of the Great Recession, she chaired Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. No economist has held the country's top three economics jobs. Assuming she is confirmed by the Senate, a safe bet, she will come to the office with that unmatched experience.

The Fed's function is to foster conditions for economic growth with low inflation. But Yellen has always stood out as an economist that focused on the impact of the economy on the lives of individuals. That, by the way, is a common denominator among many of Biden's choices for his economic team. Yellen is a labor economist, studying factors affecting unemployment and wages, with attention to issues like discrimination, income inequality and the shortcomings of the free markets.

Navigating between the Scylla and Charybdis of a divided country, of competing priorities, of government debt versus fiscal stimulus, is not new to Yellen.

At the Fed, she drove monetary policy, a process guided primarily by decisions over whether and when to lower or raise interest rates, movements that markets watched breathlessly. Raise too fast and the economy (and stock prices) can stall; lower too much and inflation can spike. She managed to keep both sides, hawks and doves, happy.

Those who questioned her choices, found someone open to discussing different points of view. But in the end, she tends to be the smartest, most prepared one in the room. In 2013, a Wall Street Journal analysis crowned her the Fed's top forecaster.

In the current crisis, the Fed has done just about all it can with interest rates. It's now time for fiscal actions, meaning government spending to boost the economy. That's where the debate will rage over the size of the national debt. But the Fed and the Treasury must work together; these days, under the Trump administration, they are at each other's throats. Yellen, with her time in both seats, will be perfectly positioned to harmonize that relationship.

When it comes to boosting debt during the pandemic, Yellen has already made clear that she stands firmly on the side of stimulus spending to pull the economy out of this quicksand. "While the pandemic is still seriously affecting the economy we need to continue extraordinary fiscal support, but even beyond that I think it will be necessary," Yellen told Bloomberg in October.

But she has never advocated disregarding the size of the deficits. In fact, she's on the board of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a distinguished non-partisan group that describes itself as "committed to fiscal responsibility." Incidentally, she is also the president of the American Economic Association.

With the economy in crisis, there's no better choice. Yellen will have a lot of leeway but, for all her expertise and self-effacement, she is sure to run into obstacles in Congress, where Republicans tend to become deficit hawks whenever there's a Democratic president. Political infighting is the one weak spot in her resume.

Even so, this is a stellar choice. Flip up your collars, it's Yellen to the rescue.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
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Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
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Rush237030
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Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1380370

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1534461574
Cuyahoga1354332341
Hamilton984041326
Montgomery677001161
Summit566391051
Lucas51349869
Butler47858663
Stark42048983
Lorain31922539
Warren30328338
Mahoning27315643
Clermont25897297
Lake24746422
Delaware22501147
Licking20701246
Fairfield20658223
Greene20527275
Trumbull20127516
Medina20006290
Clark18086332
Richland16602236
Portage16305231
Wood15869209
Allen14257261
Miami13963261
Muskingum12858155
Wayne12126244
Columbiana11896242
Tuscarawas11103271
Marion10865150
Pickaway10580129
Scioto10477127
Erie9822171
Ross9566177
Lawrence8886125
Hancock8567143
Ashtabula8423187
Geauga8226156
Belmont8221188
Jefferson7635175
Huron7507131
Union740751
Washington7334126
Athens705965
Sandusky6925135
Darke6853137
Knox6762122
Seneca6496137
Ashland6035115
Auglaize593188
Shelby5796104
Brown572972
Mercer563690
Defiance5538101
Crawford5530117
Madison549371
Highland548082
Fulton539583
Clinton532081
Logan516987
Preble5058111
Putnam4876107
Guernsey480664
Williams466482
Perry459054
Champaign452264
Ottawa441384
Jackson432963
Pike397045
Morrow393851
Coshocton386669
Fayette381753
Adams366875
Hardin363970
Gallia352858
Holmes3297111
Henry328869
Van Wert318871
Hocking308070
Wyandot284558
Carroll265452
Paulding245143
Meigs220242
Monroe191949
Noble172942
Morgan169429
Harrison160041
Vinton140619
Unassigned05
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