Yellen headed for Treasury in US first

World | REUTERS 25 Nov 2020

President-elect Joe Biden is to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as US Treasury secretary, breaking a 231-year gender barrier and putting a seasoned economist and labor market expert in charge of leading the country out of the steepest downturn since the Great Depression.

The move, confirmed by Democratic allies to the Biden campaign, will shift Treasury's focus heavily toward progressive efforts to tackle growing economic inequality and fighting climate change and away from the Trump administration's pre-pandemic emphasis on cutting taxes and easing financial regulations.

Yellen, 74, brings decades of economic policy experience and is respected by Congress, international finance officials, progressives and business interests alike. She has called for opening fiscal spending taps to revive an economy wracked by the coronavirus pandemic and would be the first person to head the Treasury, the Fed and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

The post will present a host of new challenges for Yellen, whose policymaking experience in the past 20 years has largely centered on monetary - rather than fiscal - policy. For one, it means a far more political role than that she played in her long career at the Fed, an institution that goes to great lengths to distance itself from partisan politics.

Yellen made history in 2014 when she became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve after serving for a decade as San Francisco Fed president and a Fed governor. Republican President Donald Trump declined to renew her term, replacing her with Jerome Powell in 2018.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family doctor and an elementary school teacher, Yellen earned a doctorate in economics from Yale in 1971 and taught at several major universities before serving as a top economic adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 1999.

Biden began a new phase in his transition to the White House after the Trump administration gave the Democrat access to critical resources that will enable him to take the reins of power in January.

The General Services Administration said on Monday that it would formally recognize Biden's transition. The announcement came after weeks of Trump claiming that the November 3 election had been marred by widespread voter fraud.

Trump, in a post on Twitter, offered support for the move.

Critics have said the president's refusal to accept the results undermined US democracy.

While Trump stopped short of conceding, it was the closest he has come to acknowledging that it is time to hand over power to Biden.

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