Labor gets a voice in Washington

Backwater or beachhead? Economist Jared Bernstein is appointed Vice President-elect Biden's chief economist.

Published December 5, 2008 6:31PM (EST)

As Paul Krugman likes to say, "elections have consequences." Case in point: The announcement Friday that Jared Bernstein will be Vice President Joseph Biden's chief economist and economic policy advisor.

Jared Bernstein is a liberal economist. Previously, you were most likely to see Bernstein's name in a news article explaining a point of view that could generally be assumed to be pro-labor. Until today, his job was as chief economist for the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit usually described as "left-leaning" by journalists seeking "balance." In other words, Bernstein has been one of the leading proponents of a kind of economic thinking that has, shall we say, not been well represented in the Bush White House, or, for that matter, the Clinton White House either.

One could well ask what kind of influence the vice president's chief economist has, of course. Certainly not as much as Larry Summers or Paul Volcker or Austan Goolsbee, most likely. And so far, I've been unable to ascertain whether Vice President Cheney even had his own chief economist. But if you review the gallery of conservatives and right-wing hacks (I'm looking at you, Arthur Laffer!) who Fortune magazine named as Vice President Cheney's economic brain trust then you have to conclude that there is clearly a new team in town. And the more Bernstein makes his voice heard over at the White House, the better off American workers will be.

UPDATE: Reader timothy3 reports that the position of chief economist to the vice president is indeed a brand new position.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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