Biden’s ‘Treasury Advisory Committee On Racial Equity’ To Be Led By ‘Defund The Police’ Advocate, Former Philadelphia Mayor
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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday announced the inaugural members of her department’s Advisory Committee on Racial Equity.

The committee will provide Yellen with “advice and recommendations” on “efforts to advance racial equity in the economy and address acute disparities for communities of color” with respect to matters such as housing and federal supplier diversity, according to a press release. Among the other inaugural appointees are former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a Democrat who will chair the committee, and Roosevelt Institute CEO Felicia Wong, who will serve as vice-chair.

“A critical piece of executing on our racial equity goals is bringing a wide set of outside perspectives and lived experiences to the decision-making table,” Yellen said. “The Treasury Advisory Committee on Racial Equity, made up of members with wide-ranging backgrounds and expertise, will provide important insight and advice to leadership across the department to bolster and inform our equity efforts.”

Nutter, who led the City of Brotherly Love from 2008 to 2016, has been skeptical of calls to defund the police and has criticized the “anti-police narrative” forwarded by current Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. On the other hand, Wong co-authored a paper contending that “police budgets should be reduced and for-profit prison systems must be done away with” four years before the death of George Floyd.

Another paper co-authored by Wong last year said policymakers should “center race” in every decision. “Because our racial disparities are so severe across all elements of the American economy and society, no policy, even if facially race-neutral, is race-neutral in practice,” the report explained. “The design of all policy proposals — big and small — must be attentive to racial outcomes. All policy, from vaccine distribution to higher education funding to tax reform, will have racialized effects. Recognizing this reality, and always considering race in policy design, is therefore vital.”

The White House is pursuing a “whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security, and foreign policy,” according to a speech delivered by President Joe Biden days after his inauguration. While praising the administration’s approach, Wong said that “centering race equity as a key measure of successful outcomes, which more generally challenges older racial liberal ideas prioritizing access and opportunity, will be pivotal to shifting policy norms and expectations.”

Beyond the Committee on Racial Equity, the Treasury Department hired Janis Bowdler. She spearheaded JPMorgan Chase’s initiative to invest $30 billion in underserved communities, as the first Counselor for Racial Equity at the end of last year. Yellen said in a statement that “the American economy has historically not worked fairly for communities of color” and asserted that her department “must play a central role” in removing purported racial inequality.

The Treasury Department also tapped Yue Chen, a former official at the New York State Department of Financial Services, to serve as Chief Climate Risk Officer for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — an entity charged with regulating national banks and federal savings associations. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve plan to work alongside Chen while forwarding environmental initiatives within the private sector.

“As our nation, and the world, grapple with how to respond to climate change, banks are increasingly focused on the risks that climate change brings to their balance sheets,” Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Michael Barr remarked in a recent speech. “The Federal Reserve is working to understand how climate change may pose risks to individual banks and to the financial system. The Federal Reserve’s mandate in this area is important, but narrow, focused on our supervisory responsibilities and our role in promoting a safe and stable financial system.”

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