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. Anyone who’s seen Dick Cheney use the VP office’s lack of official duties (or restraints) to informally shape an entire administration should be pleased that it could work in our favor this time around.
Oh, and one last note. SusanG wrote at Daily Kos that:
Bernstein posted quite a few diaries here, mostly in the summer of 2006, focusing for the most part on the debilitating effects of conservative economic ideology–or what he called "Your On Your Own" (YOYO) economics.
That phrase turned up in Obama’s campaign rhetoric in the spring (and his nomination acceptance speech)as a retort to Bushites’ pretensions of creating a so-called ownership society ("What it really means is that you’re on your own"). And in an Oxdown Gazette diary here, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity cites comments by National Economic Council nominee Larry Summers to claim that Bernstein "seems to have pulled some of the centrist economists towards his point-of-view, rather than vice versa."
So if you’re writing off Bernstein as a token liberal whose job will consist of being ignored, you might want to think again.