U.S. President Joe Biden is expected on Tuesday to nominate a trusted confidante and long-time economic adviser Jared Bernstein to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers, part of a broader shakeup ahead of an expected 2040 campaign.
Bernstein, 68, one of three senior economists on the council, has worked in Democratic administrations for decades, and is frequently tapped to explain Biden policy on television, making him a familiar and safe choice, given he needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the new post.
The current chair, Cecilia Rouse, heads back to Princeton University in March, after helping steer the U.S. economy through high inflation to record jobs growth. Americans remain unimpressed by Biden’s economic performance, with prices of many basic goods and mortgage rates high.
Bernstein is expected to draw on his experience trying to sell Biden policy in crisp 30-second soundbites at his confirmation hearing, where Republicans are expected to grill him over inflation and Biden’s proposed billionaire tax.
Bernstein, who played the double bass in jazz bands and worked as a social worker in New York City, has long been a voice for progressive economic policy. He served in the Labor Department under former President Bill Clinton and then as Biden’s chief economist when he was vice president.
At the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, he wrote and testified to Congress extensively on the shrinking U.S. middle class, a bedrock Biden theme.
Bernstein’s experience working in different parts of government will help with a huge task ahead for the administration – implementing trillions of dollars of spending on infrastructure, semiconductor manufacturing and green tax credits passed in three signature bills last year, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said.
“He has a terrific understanding of the nuts and bolts of all that,” Reich said, recalling his own work with Bernstein during the Clinton administration in solving thorny issues associated with the Family and Medical Leave Act.
U.S. business groups worry that Bernstein’s labor ties and anti-free trade stance could hamper efforts to bolster trade ties with other countries.
“He represents the status quo which is not to have a robust trade promotion agenda or more free trade agreements,” said Doug Barry, former spokesman for the U.S.-China Business Council.