Biden names Janet Yellen, former Fed chief, as Treasury secretary

Pioneering Jewish economist was the first woman to head the Federal Reserve, has worked with 2 other US presidents, though Trump gave her a miss

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen appears for an interview with FOX Business Network in the Fox Washington bureau, in Washington, August 14, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen appears for an interview with FOX Business Network in the Fox Washington bureau, in Washington, August 14, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

WASHINGTON, United States — US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as his choice for Treasury secretary.

“Janet Yellen is nominated to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its 231-year history,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement.

The 74-year-old pioneering Jewish economist previously broke barriers as the first female Fed chief, and will be tasked with revitalizing the coronavirus-stricken US economy if confirmed by the Senate.

Biden announced Yellen’s nomination — which was first reported last week — along with a number of other officials who would fill out his administration’s economic team once he takes office in late January.

“As we get to work to control the virus, this is the team that will deliver immediate economic relief for the American people during this economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than ever,” Biden said in a statement.

A history of working with US presidents

Yellen began her career in academia before joining the board of governors of the Federal Reserve, the central bank that controls monetary policy, in 1994.

Then Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gets up after testifying at a hearing of the Federal Reserve Board Joint Economic Committee, November 29, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

She worked for former US president Bill Clinton as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in the late 1990s. Then in 2004, the Bay Area resident — her Jewish husband and fellow economist George Akerlof taught at the University of California, Berkeley — became president of the Fed’s San Francisco branch.

Former US president Barack Obama appointed her as vice chair of the Federal Reserve in 2010, before elevating her to chair in 2013, replacing fellow Jewish economist Ben Bernanke.

Her career has earned praise from all sides — for example, even though US President Donald Trump declined to give her another term as Federal Reserve chief in 2017 (he told The Washington Post that he was partly “hung up” on the fact that she is only five feet tall), he called her a “wonderful woman who’s done a terrific job.”

Synagogue member

Yellen was born to “not particularly observant” Polish Jewish parents and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. At Yale, she was mentored by Jewish professors Herschel Grossman and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winner.

While she and Akerlof lived in Berkeley, they were members of a local Reform synagogue, Congregation Beth-El. The Forward reported that their only son went to preschool there.

Yellen’s Jewish heritage has earned her a place in “globalist” theories involving Jews.

In 2016, Trump released a campaign ad that drew condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism and other Jewish groups. In the ad, Trump spoke about who controls the “levers of power in Washington” and “global special interests” as images of Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros and Yellen appeared.

Tasks facing Yellen

The United States has seen a sharp contraction in growth and tens of millions of job losses as it struggles with a resurgence of infections amid the world’s largest COVID-19 outbreak.

US President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, November 25, 2020. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Massive stimulus spending approved earlier in the year has helped blunt some of the downturn, but Yellen likely will be tasked with breaking a deadlock in Congress over passing more aid, which analysts say is needed to avert renewed economic pain.

Biden also announced Neera Tanden, president of liberal think tank Center for American Progress, as his pick to head the Office of Management and Budget.

Nigerian-born Wally Adeyemo, a former deputy national security advisor, will serve as deputy Treasury secretary, the statement said.

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