After school, Bernstein grew to become a social employee in East Harlem. His first case was a single mom frantic to get her son, who had bronchial asthma, on Medicaid. “She was virtually in tears when she obtained the [Medicaid] card,” he mentioned. “The solely poor folks I met have been struggling their asses off to make ends meet. When I turn into czar, I’m going to insist that each economist has to place in a few years as a social employee.” The expertise helped kind the primary legislation of Bernsteinomics: It should not be so exhausting to get a superb job.
Since then, Bernstein has spent a lot of his profession evangelizing that message from inside progressive suppose tanks—first on the Economic Policy Institute in the course of the “large authorities is over” ’90s, and now on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the place he’s a senior fellow. In 2016, Politico named him one of many 50 “thinkers” reworking American politics. He got here in at No. 21. Madeleine Albright, Lena Dunham, and Gloria Steinem tied for No. 22.
With that stable left-wing monitor file, Bernstein landed the Biden job as a thank-you to labor unions who had helped Barack Obama win the election. “On day by day financial briefings within the Oval Office with the president, Jared was all the time on the desk,” says Christina Romer, a Berkeley economist who was Obama’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Progressives hoped that Bernstein can be a savvy insider whose backroom machinations would give the administration one H-E–double hockey sticks of a shove to the left. Whenever lefties needed one thing from the White House, they went to Jared. “Bernstein was all the time a conduit that progressives needed to get into Obamaland,” says Alex Lawson, the director of Social Security Works, who tangled with Team Obama. Early on, Bernstein wrangled a three-hour dinner with a handful of high progressives on the vp’s residence, a uncommon probability for them to current their views on to Biden himself.
But the remainder of Obama’s financial staff have been nothing like Bernstein. Progressives had thought that Obama’s populist chatter of “hope” and “change” meant he was one in every of them. But whereas they have been nonetheless in celebration mode after the election, he named two Bill Clinton holdovers as his high financial advisers: Larry Summers, Obama’s chair of the National Economic Council, had deregulated the monetary system within the ’90s, and lefties noticed Timothy Geithner, his Treasury secretary, as mushy on large banks. “When he appointed Rahm Emanuel as chief of workers and Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary, I believed, We’re fucked,” says Mike Luz, who oversaw progressive outreach in the course of the transition.
On a snowy Tuesday in December 2008, Bernstein and the opposite financial advisers huddled in Chicago to place collectively a stimulus. The practically $800 billion package deal they got here up with was bold, a defibrillator jolt that stopped the disaster from careening right into a second Depression. But it wasn’t practically large enough—and Obama’s personal advisers obtained in the way in which. Biden probed the wonks for “something big and inspirational,” concepts that would not simply repair the financial system, however change it. Instead, the staff “informed Obama all of the issues he could not do, not the issues he may do,” Reed Hundt, the previous head of the Federal Communications Commission who was concerned within the Obama transition, informed me. When Obama threw out the thought of the federal government bankrolling a nationwide energy grid, Summers reportedly shot it down. When the staff’s quantity crunchers urged that resuscitating the financial system would wish an excellent greater stimulus, Summers rejected the likelihood earlier than it reached the president.