In news that won’t come as a big surprise to Fed watchers, Bloomberg reports that Joe Biden is focusing on Fed governor Lael Brainard as his Treasury Secretary pick “a choice that would keep both Wall Street and progressives in line.” Lael’s political bias first emerged in early 2016 when it was revealed that she had donated repeatedly to the Hillary Clinton campaign, rather odd for an “apolitical” Fed governor but sufficient to telegraph her ideological affiliation to the Biden campaign.
Biden’s focus on Brainard is further prompted by his desire to signal his sexual equality virtue: as Bloomberg notes, “the former vice president wants to make a historic choice for the job that has always been held by a White man, some of the people said.” And while she is not Elizabeth Warren, Brainard wouldn’t upset Wall Street or progressives, two constituencies that Biden would want on his side in working toward an economic recovery and avoiding Democratic infighting.
And speaking of Elizabeth Warren, she reportedly hasn’t been ruled out “but is far less likely” while other possible names are also being discussed for the top finance job if Biden wins November’s election, Bloomberg reports citing nine anonymous sources.
Warren has fans who argue that she is skilled at communicating economic policy to the country and within Washington, and could help a Biden administration execute a larger-scale plan to reshape the economy than other candidates.
But her antipathy to Wall Street and progressive views would worry the finance industry, which has long feared her legislative and regulatory wrath.
If Biden does ultimately pick Brainard, “the markets would take that as a signal that Biden intends to govern as a moderate, not give in to the progressive wing, so it sends a broader message,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC. “There would probably be some measure of relief that it’s not Elizabeth Warren but someone viewed as far less hostile.”
Brainard, 58, a Harvard-educated economist, has been on the Fed’s board since 2014. In recent years, she has made efforts to lean toward more progressive policies such as the Community Reinvestment Act. In January she gave a speech highlighting reform efforts necessary to encourage more lending in low- and moderate-income markets.
Brainard has also been a firm proponent of Yield Curve Control, which the Fed may have no choice but to unleash if Goldman is correct, and there is a Democratic sweep which leads to an even greater flood of spending and a 40bps (or more) spike in Treasury yields.
Other possible picks for the top Treasury jobs include former Fed official Roger Ferguson and Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic, both black men, according to the Bloomberg sources, while former Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin – a woman – is also lobbying for the role.
In other words, the only people who are almost certain not to be nominated are white males, regardless of merit or qualification, which is bad news for BlackRock’s Larry Fink or Blackstone’s Tony James, both of whom have reportedly been “talked up” by Biden’s Wall Street donors.
And while none of the above is unexpected, what may come as a surprise to some is that Brainard “has expressed more interest in being Fed chair than in leading the Treasury, but wouldn’t turn Treasury down if offered.”
Which means that if Biden wins and for whatever reason Brainard is passed over the Treasury job, which may well become the next Fed chair. That is bad news for Neel Kashkari whose own ambitions for the top Fed job are not exactly a secret. That means that as we get to brass tacks, and should the Democrats win in a landslide on Nov 3, the Minneapolis Fed president will have to go for broke and unleash a super-negative “dot” when the Fed publishes its next set of projections on Decemebr 16.