FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Faith in the U.S. dollar has often been based in part on what Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says. On Thursday, the focus will be on what she writes, as the government produces its first coin bearing her signature.
Yellen loops her capital ‘J’ and ‘Y’ over and over, the rest of her name flowing hastily, suggesting that handwriting may not have been this revolutionary economist’s top priority.
She earned a reputation as a stoic Federal Reserve chair and shrewd forecaster, and now she’s at the forefront of wide-ranging efforts to use economic leverage to help stop Russia’s war in Ukraine. , using tax policy to protect the planet from climate change, and overseeing a massive effort to bolster the beleaguered IRS.
This puts her at the center of national and global politics, inviting new levels of pressure and questioning from friends and foes alike. She is tackling this challenge as the United States suffers from inflation that hit a 40-year high this summer and sowed fears of a coming recession.
Although Yellen plans to watch the new bills bearing his signature unfold at the Western Mint office of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Forth Worth, Texas, his celebratory remarks were expected to dwell on the policy accomplishments of the Biden administration rather than her status as the first woman to serve as Treasury Secretary.
On the conflict in Ukraine sparked last February by Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said in prepared remarks: “Along with more than 30 countries, we have deprived Russia of the income and resources it needs to wage its war. “.
As for the domestic economy, she said, pandemic relief and a new law aimed at boosting semiconductor production have positioned the United States “to capitalize on a wave of opportunity. economic benefits for the American people, including in often overlooked communities.”
Now, two years into Joe Biden’s presidency, Yellen has shut down rumors that she may be ready to leave the administration early and is preparing for more economic – as well as political – battles to come.
In addition to managing the Treasury’s role in the war in Ukraine, she faces the Herculean task of revitalizing an IRS that is getting an $80 billion funding boost and enforcing an anti-money laundering effort. money that requires documenting the beneficial owners of tens of millions of American businesses in hopes of crushing corruption around the world.
It occupies an increasingly politicized role in which Congress and foreign governments matter as much as financial markets.
Its Treasury Department is seeking to hobble the Russian economy with a cap on oil prices, as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California questions the level of US support for Ukraine. The Treasury is also rolling out tens of billions in tax incentives, to fight climate change, which have antagonized some European allies and proved controversial with Republicans. And wage gains in the latest US jobs report suggest the economy may have to endure more pain than expected to bring inflation back to the Fed’s target of 2% a year.
Along the way, Yellen hasn’t shied away from polemicizing or speaking out on issues that many Americans view only through a cultural lens.
When Sen. Tim Scott, R.S.C., at a congressional hearing in May told Yellen she was “tough” for speaking out about the positive economic impacts of abortion access for women , she replied, “It’s not hard, it’s the truth. She also challenged the view that the havens for hidden money are outside the United States, arguing instead that the United States has become the “best place” to hide illegally obtained money.
Yellen generated tension with the White House this year when she strayed somewhat from Biden’s insistence that his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package was not helping the inflation. Republican lawmakers relied on the analysis of leading economists such as Harvard University’s Larry Summers to say the sum was excessive and triggered inflation. Global supply chain disruptions and soaring food and energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have also helped push prices to uncomfortable levels, exposing the economy to an increased risk of recession.
Yellen admitted on CNN in May that she was “wrong then about the path inflation would take.” Biden said he was made aware of the possible risks of inflation when the relief package was put in place, but he told The Associated Press in an interview that “the idea that it caused inflation is weird”.
Yellen’s predictions to the Treasury on financial markets on other counts have proven accurate.
His warnings about the risks of a deregulated cryptocurrency market foresaw recent chaos. Crypto markets have seen at least two major crashes, dozens of scams, Ponzi schemes, and hundreds of billions of dollars made and evaporated overnight.
Yellen also used her platform as a senior government official to warn that despite progress for women in the workplace, a glass ceiling is keeping many out of the top jobs.
Yellen, who is the only person to ever head the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the White House Council of Economic Advisers, is still criticized by members of both political parties for not being more dynamic and politically savvy at times. and for being too direct at other times.
Summers, Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton, said in a statement to The Associated Press that Yellen “is pursuing a distinguished career in economic policy at the US Treasury Department. No other Secretary of the Treasury has had a deeper commitment to social justice as a central objective of macroeconomic and financial policies.
Anusha Chari, an economist who chairs the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, calls Yellen’s signing on the U.S. currency “an important step, but it also shows us how far we have to go”.
The Treasury Department was created in 1789, and until Yellen only white men had run it.
Chari said “it’s an occasion we should be celebrating – see Janet Yellen’s name on the coinage – but I wish it wasn’t such a unique event for women.”
Yellen’s signature will appear next to the name of U.S. Treasurer Lynn Malerba, the first Native American in the role. The notes are expected to be delivered to the Federal Reserve in December and will be in circulation next year.
Yellen said of the moment, “It’s really not about me or Treasurer Malerba. To me, these ratings represent the continued hard work of the Treasury Department to strengthen our economy and advance our economic standing in the world.
Boak reported from Washington.
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