In today’s Democratic Party, inheriting Obama’s economic legacy may be a burden, not a benefit.
As the transition to the next administration under Joe Biden begins, several lists of potential economics team members are already in circulation. Longtime Biden advisors Jared Bernstein and Ben Harris are in the frame. So too is Heather Boushey of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, formerly of Hillary Clinton’s transition team. Lael Brainard at the U.S. Federal Reserve is one of the most experienced technocrats of her generation. She is odds on to be the first woman to serve as U.S. treasury secretary.
These are the intellectual picks. At the other end of the spectrum are operators like the businessman Jeff Zients, Barack Obama’s Mr. Fix-It and the head of his National Economic Council. Zients is one of four co-chairs in the Biden transition team and a “staunch capitalist” vouched for by the Business Roundtable.
The economic agenda of the Biden administration will likely be defined by such splits in personal background and by the wider left-center axis that runs through the Democratic Party. At this stage, these divides seem much more pronounced than under Obama. The economics team of Obama’s early years was taken straight from Bill Clinton’s roster. When Biden’s team announced this year that it was taking advice from Larry Summers, Clinton’s last treasury secretary and a key figure of continuity in the Obama administration, it provoked a storm of protest from the left. Since then, Summers has removed himself from consideration for jobs in the Biden administration.