5 Keys to Understanding Biden’s Nominee for Top Economist Who Pushed for IRS Expansion, Green New Deal

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On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee will consider whether to advance the president’s advisor who has been called “Joe Biden’s man on the left” and the man behind “Bidenomics” to be chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. 

Jared Bernstein has pushed the president’s spending and climate policies and was among the most prominent voices that publicly called inflation “transitory.” And when the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade seemed certain, Bernstein called abortion, “at its core here, an economic issue.”

Some Republicans have criticized Bernstein for helping to orchestrate the historic levels of inflation reached since Biden came into office. 

Here are five things to know about him.

1. Supports Green New Deal

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said Bernstein’s comments about the Biden administration’s record shows he has a “backwards understanding” of the economy. 

“Anyone who believes the Biden administration has a ‘top track record on energy production’ or that the United States ‘produces more oil’ under his administration has a backwards understanding of energy policy and its effect on the nation’s economy and is not qualified to serve a senior position that deals with those issues,” Daines told The Daily Signal in a statement. “I urge all of my colleagues to oppose Jared Bernstein’s nomination.” 

The position of Council of Economic Advisors chair rarely draws controversy. Biden nominated Bernstein, a member of the council, to succeed Cecilia Rouse, who was confirmed 95-4. But the April confirmation hearing for Bernstein was contentious, with most Republicans seemingly opposed to the nomination. 

During the hearing, when taking questions from Daines, Bernstein said, “I think the important point here is the domestic production of traditional forms of energy, and under which our administration has the top track record of any presidential administration on record, 11.6million barrels a day, considerably higher than the previous administration, higher than any other administration on record.” 

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When Daines asked about Biden cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline that was to transport oil from Canada, he responded, “The Biden administration produces more oil.”

He also previously has written that fossil fuels are too inexpensive. 

“Fossil fuels are severely underpriced,” Bernstein wrote in Vox in 2019. He went on to endorse the Green New Deal legislation pushed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“Clearly, a different approach is necessary. Which is why we really should take the Green New Deal seriously,” Bernstein continued in Vox. “It doesn’t adjust price signals by taxing carbon or try to convince people that there’s a big problem out there beyond their discounting horizon. Instead, the GND puts action against climate change in an immediate and broad social justice context that recognizes the urgency of present needs—better jobs (many in green sectors, a way in which action on climate can be pro-growth, for the record) and health care—while plotting an ambitious course to 100 percent renewable and emission-free electricity in the relatively near future.”

2. Endorsed by Some Republicans

The White House argues Senate Republicans should follow the lead of past Republican economic officials.

“Jared has had bipartisan meetings with Banking Committee members and other senators throughout his nomination process, and we are looking forward to Jared’s confirmation vote,” a White House official who works on nominations told The Daily Signal on Tuesday.

“Seven former CEA chairs who served in Republican administrations wrote to the committee to express their support of Dr. Bernstein’s nomination,” the official added. 

The seven former Council of Economic Advisors chairmen who signed a letter supporting Bernstein included three who served under Biden’s predecessor, President Donald Trump: Kevin Hassett, Tomas Philipson, and Tyler Goodspeed. Others were Ben Bernanke, N. Gregory Mankiw, and R. Glenn Hubbard, who were CEA chairmen under President George W. Bush; as well as Michael J. Boskin, who led the council under President George H.W. Bush.

3. ‘Man on the Left’ With the ‘Inclination’ of Bernie Sanders

Still, The Atlantic referred to Bernstein as Biden’s “man on the left,” while Politico called him the “man behind Bidenomics.” As the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, he would advise the president on matters such as the debt ceiling, taxes, and spending. 

During the Obama administration, he was an economic advisor to then-Vice President Biden. 

The Atlantic piece said, “Before leaving the [Obama] administration in 2011, Bernstein was one of the White House’s rare lefties, his voice routinely drowned out by a chorus of moderates. … With that solid left-wing track record, Bernstein landed the Biden job as a thank-you to labor unions who had helped Barack Obama win the election.” 

The article added, “Whenever lefties wanted something from the White House, they went to Jared.”

Faiz Shakir, who managed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, told The Atlantic that Bernstein’s “inclination on many economic issues has been close to agreement with Bernie Sanders’s.”

Bernstein wrote a 2020 op-ed for The Washington Post titled, “The Built-in Biases in Economics That Feed Systemic Racism.”

“When economists assume that what we’re seeing in normal times is an acceptable baseline, worthy of maintenance by economic policy, we are accepting a set of persistently unjust outcomes along racial lines,” Bernstein wrote. 

“The current model embodies and implicitly accepts all the above disparities (and many more, e.g., incarceration rates) as consistent with an equilibrium that the dutiful economist must strive to maintain,” he continued. “Economic policy agendas that start from this model can only further entrench the disparities ticked through above, most commonly by under-intervening in failing markets. Clearly, economic racial justice requires a wholly different model.”

4. IRS Expansion ‘One of My Favorites’

Bernstein played a role the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, a massive spending and climate bill which passed last year; the American Rescue Plan, which passed early in Biden’s first year in office; and the Build Back Better bill, which failed to pass. 

He also praised the expansion of the Internal Revenue Service in the  Inflation Reduction Act as “one of my favorites” in a tweet. 

Meanwhile, Bernstein said lawmakers should “ignore” and “ridicule” any Republican lawmakers who supported the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which cut tax rates and eliminated several tax loopholes. 

5. Abortion ‘At Its Core … an Economic Issue’

In May 2022, Bernstein argued on CNN that abortion was an economic issue. 

“Financially, it’s like losing a job,” Bernstein said of laws increasing abortion restrictions. “It’s like being evicted. It’s like losing health insurance. It’s like going to the hospital in terms of its impact on their finances.”

He went on to say: “So this is a—it’s a justice issue, it’s a liberty issue, it’s a women’s right issue—of course, health issue, first and foremost, personal decision. But it is also at its core here an economic issue, particularly for younger women and women of color.”

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