It makes headlines but is ultimately of no moment that Janet Yellen will, when confirmed, become the nation’s first female secretary of the treasury, just as she was the first female chair of the Federal Reserve.
Women filling government’s top jobs is inching ever closer to becoming simply the norm.
What matters about Yellen — born and bred in Bay Ridge (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Jewish daughter of a schoolteacher and doctor, valedictorian at Fort Hamilton High — is that she is a brilliant economist and public policy tactician, a believer in aggressive government intervention who knows how to move both fiscal and monetary levers to goose business expansion and job growth.
She will have to draw on that expertise immediately to help craft and champion robust stimulus measures that can get an economy walloped by a historically horrible pandemic, in which millions remain unemployed, back on solid footing.
“There is a huge amount of suffering out there,” Yellen said in late September. “The economy needs the spending.” Amen; this is no time for hand-wringing about deficits and debt.
Though Yellen hails from the left side of the ledger ideologically, she is more opportunistic than doctrinaire, and more power to her. A few years ago, progressives may have thralled to Elizabeth Warren’s inquisition of Yellen for supposedly having done too little to lay the groundwork for the breakup of big banks.
Today, out-of-work Americans don’t have the luxury of resting on easy ideology. They need pragmatic plans to rescue sectors knocked flat on their backs. They need aid rushed to cities and states — like Yellen’s hometown, New York — and help for renters soon to be on the business end of eviction orders.
In tapping Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden enlists a battle-ready economic general to develop and execute strategies equal to the national crisis. Fight, fight, fight.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS