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Biden appears to former Fed Chair Yellen for financial recommendation

Janet Yellen

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Joe Biden is seeking advice from former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, who ran monetary policy while the Democratic nominee served as vice president.

Yellen, now a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution, was among a handful of economists who on Thursday briefed Biden about an economy that has been reeling during the five-month coronavirus pandemic, according to the campaign.

Yellen has avoided shows of political partisanship, and it’s not clear whether her decision to meet with Biden represented an endorsement. She did not immediately return a request for comment. A Brookings spokesman said employees of the think tank can “provide nonpartisan public policy analysis” to candidates but added that they cannot engage in politics “on behalf of the institution.”

While past Fed officials aren’t known for getting too deeply involved in politics, there is some precedent.

“Janet has been a dedicated public servant for a long time. She’s been a very effective leader at the central bank. Lots of people want to seek her advice,” said Gary Richardson, a Universty of California Irvine economics professor and Fed historian. “The fact that Biden is reaching out to her is a good thing. She’s clearly a very successful policymaker as well as a successful academic.”

Among those joining Yellen were Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and who served as Biden’s chief economic advisor from 2009-11; Heather Boushey, president and CEO at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Harvard University professor Raj Chetty, Michigan State University professor Lisa Cook, and Biden senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan.

A release from the campaign stated that the group has “an array of different specialties and backgrounds.”

Bernstein is a widely recognized progressive who appears often on CNBC; Chetty is known for his work in racial and economic inequality; Cook has been a leader in trying to include more Black women in the field of economics; and Boushey’s think tank also focuses on income inequality.

As for Yellen, she most recently made her mark steering the Fed out of its financial crisis-era policies, ushering through the first rate hike in seven years in 2015 then rolling back the growth of the central bank’s balance sheet that had occurred through bond purchases aimed at stimulating growth.

However, when her term expired in 2018, President Donald Trump chose not to reappoint her, instead opting for then-Fed Governor Jerome Powell, whom the president since has criticized harshly.

Yellen did push back indirectly on some of Trump’s Fed criticism. She joined former chairs Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker and Ben Bernanke last year in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that stressed the importance of an independent Fed free of political pressure.

Former Fed chairs often stay out of politics, though Volcker did endorse Barack Obama in 2008.

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