Brainard was the Fed leading voice for tighter Wall Street oversight, opposing policies that loosen the rules put in place to protect the financial system after the Great Recession. She has also warned of how climate change can hamper economic activity and how the exposure of large banks to climate-related risks could threaten the entire financial system.
“I am committed to putting American workers at the center of my efforts at the Federal Reserve. That means bringing inflation down at a time when people are focused on their jobs and how far their paychecks will go,” a said Brainard when he was nominated in November.
Votes are expected later this week on three of Biden’s other picks, including Jerome H. Powell, whom Biden has signed up for a second term as Fed chairman.
Higher interest rates could help, Powell says. Not everyone agrees.
Biden also nominated economists Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson to open seats on the Fed board. Cook, an economist at Michigan State University, would be the first black woman on the Fed’s board. His work has focused on macroeconomics, economic history, international finance, and innovation, particularly on how hate-related violence has reduced economic growth in the United States.
Jefferson, an economist at Davidson College, would be the fourth black man appointed to the board. His research has focused on inequality, how economic cycles affect poverty rates, and the role of education as a shield against unemployment.
Together, the confirmations from Cook and Jefferson would mark the first time the Fed board has included more than one black governor at a time.
With new nominees, Biden is trying to bring together the most diverse Fed in history
All four nominees should gain enough support to be confirmed. But Biden’s the original list of Fed picks was slightly different. In recent months, his first Sarah Bloom Raskin, a candidate for the position of chief banking regulator at the Fed, has faced fierce opposition from Republicans who initially opposed her candidacy due to her focus on climate change and her threat to financial stability.
GOP lawmakers boycotted his confirmation vote after raising questions about his tenure on the board of a Colorado payments company. Shortly after, Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), a key Democratic vote, said he opposed Raskin because of his stance on energy in an age of inflation, virtually condemning his way forward. Raskin later withdrew his nomination.
As a replacement, Biden named Michael Barr, who played a key role in creating the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial rules passed in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis. Barr is awaiting a confirmation hearing.
Inflation explained: how prices took off
Biden’s picks would take their jobs during a tough time for Fed policymaking. Inflation has reached its highest level in four decades, and authorities are scrambling to seize on rising prices as it seeps deeper into the economy. The Fed has set expectations for seven interest rate hikes this year and will likely give the go-ahead for a more aggressive hike – 0.50 percentage points – at its meeting next week.
Meanwhile, two years after 20 million people lost their jobs, the labor market is remarkably tight. Such a demand for labor has gave workers new leverage to bargain at work, while raising wages. But the mismatch between the number of jobs available and the number of people looking for work is pushing the Fed to rein in demand for workers without hurting the recovery.
To complicate the Fed’s twin challenges of reducing inflation and recalibrating the labor market, the Fed must do everything without cooling the economy to the point that companies are laying off employees or triggering another recession.
The Fed’s ability to steer the economy will play an important role in Biden’s legacy. While the Biden administration has tried to reduce gas prices or control food prices by going after big business, the White House has the most influence on economic policy through its candidates.
High inflation has become one of the most burdensome features of economic recovery, especially for people living paycheck to paycheck. The rising cost of groceries, gas and rent often serves as a litmus test of how people think the economy is doing. Inflation has been a major drag on Democrat polls heading into the 2022 midterms, making it’s harder for Biden to rally support for his economic policy.
Brainard, 60, was formerly undersecretary for international affairs at the Treasury Department and senior deputy to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner after the Great Recession. She also led the Obama administration’s global economic and financial policy coordination, including during the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
Between 2001 and 2008, Brainard served as Vice President and Founding Director of the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution. She also served as deputy national economic adviser to the Clinton White House during the Asian financial crisis.
She earned a doctorate in economics from Harvard University. As the daughter of an American diplomat, Brainard grew up on both sides of the Iron Curtain in Germany and Poland during the Cold War.