Why Progressives Should Embrace Lael Brainard

Dear friends on the left,

I write to you in response to the "blacklisting" of Lael Brainard, Tom Nides, and others from a potential future Hillary Clinton administration.

First, make no mistake that our paramount, urgent goal at this moment is to win the White House in November. The discussion of appointees in a theoretical administration must not distract from the existential priority at hand.

But since whispers in corridors are underway regardless, I wanted to take a moment to share my view that this new "progressive" conventional wisdom is dead-wrong: Dr. Lael Brainard would be an extraordinary addition to any incoming administration.

Dr. Brainard has spent her current tenure on the Board of the Federal Reserve championing monetary policies to keep jobs growing and wages rising for Americans. This means consistently opposing interest rate hikes and prioritizing the Fed's mandate to maximize employment.

As Under Secretary of the Treasury during the first Obama administration, she was a leading voice for global development policies to reduce poverty and inequality and expand opportunity around the world. Her vast publication record while senior fellow at the Brookings Institution demonstrates her consistent analysis that poverty and peace are inextricably intertwined, and that addressing global inequality must be central to any national security agenda.

Dr. Brainard was the steady hand at the helm of the ship during the European Debt Crisis that began unfolding in 2009. She brought together caustic and calculating foes in a steady and determined effort to head-off a global economic meltdown that could have engulfed all of us, and to rebuild the possibility of shared prosperity and inclusive growth.

On trade and investment policy specifically -- now an election-year hot potato and a core concern cited by her critics -- Dr. Brainard has consistently prioritized the interests of workers, consumers, and environmental sustainability over narrow special interests. Of course she labored to advance the Presidents' trade agendas (both Clinton and Obama) while she worked for them. That was her job. Personally I have strong misgivings about the deal that was done with TPP and the terms under negotiation in TTIP. But throughout all her work -- in the Clinton and Obama administrations and outside of them, across the spectrum of trade negotiations and political trade-offs and in her own research -- Dr. Brainard consistently has been a strong voice for policies that create a fair and level playing field. She can be counted on to champion (often discreetly, usually inside the building, through well-researched analytic arguments rather than fear-mongering rhetoric) trade and investment approaches that protect human and worker rights, advance inclusive growth and reduce poverty, and ensure that the rules of the global economy can work for everyone, not just the rich and powerful.

I've spent my entire life fighting for social and environmental justice. First as a young student organizer, later as an academic and policymaker. A consistent thread running through all of my work is a commitment to advancing economic policies that promote equal opportunity, social and economic rights, and environmental sustainability, for this and future generations.

I also had the privilege of working for Dr. Brainard in the first Obama administration, and found her values for the most part consistent with my own. She is brilliant, and she is cautious. Although she may sometimes move more slowly than I would like, she is usually steering in a direction I support. She amasses analysis, not protest buttons. She is quite often the best informed person in the room. She reads all her briefings (a rarity), drills down on the details, and asks the really tough questions.

Dr. Brainard's approach is the right one for captaining the global economy -- a job that requires good values, deep expertise, a steady hand, and long foresight. Not so cathartic and not so sexy as raucous protest, but much better fit to deliver tangible, bread-and-butter benefits for everyone, especially those most in need.