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Who is Janet Yellen? : The Historic Nominee for Treasury Secretary

January 20th approaches fast, and the United States public has their attention poised on President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team. Though many have speculated (in fantasy football fashion) who will be on the new administration’s cabinet, no one knows for sure until the team announces their official picks. On November 23rd, 2020, the Biden administration nominated Janet Yellen as their nomination for Secretary of Treasury. Not only will she be the first female Secretary of Treasury upon confirmation, but she will be a fascinating pick policy wise. 

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Janet Yellen grew up in a middle-class family in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother was a school teacher, and her father was a family doctor. Yellen then went on to study at Brown University for undergrad and then earned her Ph.D. in economics from Yale. Yellen also has numerous honorary degrees from universities, including NYU and the London School of Economics, to recognize her economics and academic work. Yellen then went on to work as a researcher at the Federal Reserve, and in 1977, she met her husband there, Nobel laureate George A. Akerlof, a renowned economist. Yellen continued her work at the Fed until she was appointed to Former President Bill Clinton’s Fed Reserve Board for Governors and then the Council of Economic Advisors’ Chair. In 2004 she became the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Fransisco. From there, she was then appointed the Vice-Chair of the Federal Reserve, and in 2013 she assumed the role of Chair of the Federal Reserve. 

The first women in history to do so. Her confirmation to this position was extremely controversial, and she was confirmed by the narrowest margin ever for the post. This was due to her unorthodox economic theory approach, specifically her firm stance that inequality was an important economic factor that needed to be addressed. In 2015, Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said to Mrs. Yellen in a hearing, “You’re sticking your nose in places that you have no business to be.” Although Yellen’s stance was controversial in 2015, the Fed often talks about inequality and its importance through Fed oversight five years later. Yellen effectively changed how the largest financial institutions discuss economic factors, a feat considering how much initial push back she received. Usually, presidents renominate the Fed chair that they inherit from past administrations, so it broke political precedent when President Donald Trump decided to nominate his pick in 2018. Upon her confirmation, Yellen will have to work closely with Jerome H. Powell, Trump’s Fed nomination, as treasury secretary. However, the two do have a close relationship, and Yellen has publicly praised Powell for his work at the Fed over the past two years.

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There is no doubt that Janet Yellen is qualified to take up this position, and that’s precisely why President-elect Biden chose her. However, her confirmation will not be easy. Georgia’s runoff in early January will decide the senate, and if the Republican party remains the majority, Yellen’s nomination could face some problems. The heavy criticism she endured in 2015 might come back to haunt her nomination process. That is a concern for many of Biden’s cabinet picks. If she is confirmed, the Biden administration will make history as Yellen will be the first woman in 231 years to be appointed treasury secretary. She’s predicted to champion interesting policy considering that she will come into the position during one of the worst recessions in modern history due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Already she has emphasized the focus on the working class of America and income inequality, a fact that conservative lawmakers will most likely attack during the confirmation hearing. Yellen will have to navigate and negotiate fiscal policies to help the nation move forward after Biden’s inauguration and prevent a recession. This includes how to move forward with the worsening debt crisis and how to tax pandemic loans (also referred to as PPE loans). She will also be thrust into the international economic world, post-Trump’s isolationist policies. Yellen will navigate the sticky Chinese tariffs as well as sanctions against Iran and North Korea. She has her work cut out for her. Janet Yellen’s nomination represents what the rest of the Biden cabinet will look like: historic, qualified, and loyal. The first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, has recently become of the most recognized Founding Fathers in United States history, thanks to the acclaimed Broadway show Hamilton. Now, it’s Yellen’s turn. History most certainly has its eyes on her.

Bronwyn Crick

Suffolk '23

Bronwyn Crick is a senior at Suffolk University majoring in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE). She is originally from Vail, Colorado. In addition to Her Campus, Bronwyn enjoys being a part of the Suffolk F1 club and is a Ram Supporter, helping first-year Suffolk Students adjust to life at Suffolk. She enjoys reading and painting, as well as exploring new places.
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