WASHINGTON - U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, facing a flagging economy staggered by the coronavirus pandemic, vowed Tuesday to build a “new American economy that works for all Americans” when he takes office January 20.
“I know times are tough, but I want you to know that help is on the way,” Biden said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, as he introduced his key economic advisers, including former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen as his nominee for Treasury secretary.
Biden urged Congress, where negotiations have deadlocked for months on more coronavirus aid to workers and businesses, “to pass a robust package of relief” in December before newly elected lawmakers take office in January.
But he acknowledged that any new aid “is likely to be — at best — just the start,” and promised to put forth new spending proposals once he starts his four-year term.
With tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases being recorded every day in the United States, Biden said the economic fortunes for Americans have been uneven, part of what economists are calling a K-shaped recovery.
“For those at the top,” Biden said, “jobs have come back, and their wealth is rising. But for those in the middle and the bottom, it’s a downward slide. They’re left figuring out how to pay bills and put food on the table.”
He said, “Almost one in every six renters was behind on rent payments as of late October.”
He said his team of economic advisers “will create a recovery for all and get this economy moving again.”
Yellen, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman to head the Treasury Department in its 231-year history. She called the effect of the coronavirus on the U.S. economy, the world’s largest, “an American tragedy. It’s essential we move with urgency.”
She called for programs to simultaneously address racial and gender inequality in the workplace and the effects of the pandemic to unleash workers’ “limitless potential.”
Biden named his key economic officials on Monday but introduced each of them individually. He praised the group as a “first-rate team that will get us through the ongoing economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than before.”
In addition to Yellen, Biden named Neera Tanden, currently president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington public policy research and advocacy group, as director of the government’s Office of Management and Budget. If confirmed, Tanden would be the first woman of color and first South Asian American to head the agency.
Already, some Republican senators have attacked Tanden’s nomination and signaled they could attempt to block it, saying she was a Democratic partisan who in the past has often attacked them.
Biden also named Adewale (Wally) Adeyemo, a longtime economic policy official, to be Yellen’s deputy, the first African American to hold the second-ranking position at the Treasury Department.
The president-elect picked labor economist Cecilia Rouse, dean of Princeton University’s public and international affairs school, as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. She would be the first Black person and the fourth woman to hold the job.
Biden named two other economists — Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey — as members of the Economic Council.
Many of the 22 million jobs lost as the virus swept into the United States from China and Europe have been recovered. While the number of layoffs of workers totaled in the millions several months ago, for much of October and November, more than 700,000 newly unemployed workers filed for unemployment compensation each week — even now, a level unseen in records that date to the 1960s.
Biden’s latest appointments underscore the incoming president’s promise to create a top rung of officials that demographically “looks like America,” one staffed with numerous female appointees and people of color. Biden’s nominees for top positions contrast with the largely white, male-dominated roster of top officeholders in the outgoing administration of President Donald Trump.
On Sunday, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris named an all-female communications team, to be headed by campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield, and Jen Psaki as press secretary.