To people worried about the seeming centrist tilt (um, wait, can you tilt to the center?) of many of president-elect Barack Obama's appointees, this morning's announcement that FDL Book Salon guest and progressive economist Jared Bernstein had been named VP Joe Biden's top economic adviser should be good news.
Yes, I know that folks like Atrios, Matt Yglesias, and others have raised questions about just how much clout Bernstein will have as the vice president's economic adviser, rather than one of the familiar posts formulating policy for the top guy, but I think that in some ways, this may be more of a feature than a bug.
It seems noteworthy that the Obama-Biden team created this position for Bernstein, apart from the established organizational chart. The strategy might be to keep Bernstein free of administrative responsibilities and turf battles, able to survey the whole range of economic policymaking and express his views as he sees fit.
Given that he'll be able to do so not only directly in group sessions but via Biden as the latter meets individually with Obama, that could be a fairly influential role.
I hope it is, cuz I likes him a lot:
In May, Bernstein wrote on Huffington Post that it’s now time for progressives to govern after years of conservative failures:
Regarding the variables that matter most to working families, the neocon experiment was a particularly dramatic failure. Employment grew one third as fast as the average over the 2000s business cycle and the unemployment rate, though low on average, was higher at the end of the cycle than at the beginning. Perhaps the most damning indictment is this: for the first time on record, going back to the mid-1940s, the income of the typical, middle-income family was slightly lower last year than at the prior peak in 2000 (see their figure A). […]
The defenders of the status quo will howl in protest: the Democrats blocked us, the terrorist attacks and the war changed everything, we must stay the course to victory! But such rhetoric should be dismissed as what it is: the last, desperate gasps of a dying movement.
They’ve had their turn and they’ve failed. It is our turn now.
Hell to the yes!
Something tells me that I'm going to pretty thoroughly enjoy the next four years, despite the occasional annoyance.