Meet the three people who will define economic policy for the next four years

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President-elect Joe Biden cinched his place in the Oval Office and history early Saturday morning with a definitive win in Pennsylvania. Immediately, Americans in cities across the country took to the streets, joyous in celebration. But while the Biden campaign took some time to relish their long and hard-fought win, they’re also ready to get to work—and it won’t be easy. 

The Biden administration is entering the White House in the midst of a public health crisis, recession, and potential difficult transition of power. 

A sustainable economic recovery will be high priority as 22.6 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. Over 750,000 unemployed workers filed initial jobless claims this week, more than any week during the Great Recession. Eight million Americans are currently facing imminent eviction; in a normal year, 3.6 million Americans do. Over 100,000 small businesses have permanently shuttered since the pandemic began, and that number is expected to increase significantly. 

Biden has been in Washington, D.C., for half a century, and along the way he has assembled a cadre of economic advisers whom he knows and trusts—advisers he’ll very likely utilize significantly both in his transition team and in the West Wing. In particular, we’ll be watching three people that Biden has regularly aligned with—the three musketeers of the economy—to see what they have to say over the next few weeks. 

Jared Bernstein speaks during the Monetary Policy Strategy, Tools, and Communication Practices Conference in Chicago in 2019.
Taylor Glascock—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jared Bernstein 

Bernstein served as Biden’s chief economist and economic adviser under the Obama administration, and it’s expected that he’ll take on a similar role now that his former boss has the top job. A progressive and advocate for laborers’ rights, Bernstein is currently serving as a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Bernstein will likely appease the more progressive wing of the Democratic party. “Sometimes people say, Biden’s a moderate,” he told The Atlantic last month. “But I don’t know any moderates who have been that closely linked to the labor movement for their whole political career.”

Bernstein’s main job in the transition will be to work to lower unemployment, create relief proposals for those who are unable to find work because of the pandemic, and to represent Biden with labor and union leaders across the country. 

Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist, Equitable Growth, gives remarks at the White House Summit on the United State of Women in 2016.
Cheriss May—NurPhoto via Getty Images

Heather Boushey

Boushey has served the Biden campaign as an unofficial top economic adviser to the President-elect. She currently works as the president and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, which seeks to diminish inequality by creating economic growth, and she was tapped to serve as the chief economist of Hillary Clinton’s would-be presidential transition team in 2016. 

As the country faces alarming inequality, propelled by the COVID-19 crisis, which particularly hurt Americans of color, those living paycheck to paycheck, and those working in lower-paying service-industry jobs, Boushey will likely be tasked with finding long-term policy solutions to a growing divide between the 1% and the 99%, along with a diminishing middle class. 

Boushey’s work on bridging the gender pay gap, creating policy for working mothers, and improving work/life balance will also likely come into play. 

Ben Harris

Harris is another economist with deep ties to Biden. He replaced Bernstein as the chief economist and chief economic adviser to the vice president from 2014 until the Obama administration ended. 

Harris, who currently sits on Chicago’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, will likely be responsible for crafting immediate COVID-19 economic recovery policy. He has been advising Biden through the campaign and is a core member of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, which is intended to bridge the gap between progressives and the more moderate wing of the Democratic party. 

Harris—unlike Bernstein, who is generally well-liked in D.C. and known for his jovial nature and dad jokes, and Boushey—is often viewed as the “silent architect” or the most behind-the-scenes member of Biden’s economic policy team. His role consists of taking policy recommendations and wishes and translating them to Big Business and Big Tech, eventually working to come to a deal that pleases all palates. 

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