President-Elect Joe Biden’s economic agenda includes job growth, encouraging entrepreneurism, investing in manufacturing and R&D and working with the private sector to fight climate change by accelerating decarbonization, the incoming director of the National Economic Council says.
Brian Deese, a former Obama Admin. adviser who played a key role in engineering the 2009 auto industry bailout, says during a Q&A at virtual CES 2021 that Biden intends to make good on his “Build Back Better” campaign theme by addressing the structural challenges that have held back economic opportunity.
“The President-Elect really takes the perspective of, what’s going to be good for the economy, and his metric of economic health is whether American families and the American middle class is able to have economic dignity and is able to achieve their economic objectives,” Deese, 42, tells Consumer Technology Assoc. President and CEO Gary Shapiro.
“That’s going to be our north star. A big part of doing that is investing here at home to build our competitive strength,” Deese says. “We have, in a lot of areas, under-invested and under-resourced our own domestic capabilities.”
Deese offers few specifics about how the relationship between the administration and the tech industry will evolve, but does say, “We have a unique opportunity to restore science to our basic decision-making.”
He notes the Trump Admin. generally has followed the Obama Admin.’s lead in areas such as autonomous vehicles, drones and artificial intelligence, and says the government “can play an ongoing role in investing in the underlying drivers of innovation.”
One area where tech companies can play a significant part is the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, Deese says: “We’re going to need to partner with the private sector. Tech companies can really help in the public-health response, making sure that we are combating misinformation and providing clear information to the public.”
Fostering innovation addresses other goals besides the broadening of economic opportunities, he says.
“We want to innovate and challenge ourselves to do things differently than have been done before,” says Deese, a former deputy director and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget under Obama. “We have not seen, in the past, the centrality of addressing the climate crisis or addressing issues of racial equity being central to an economic strategy in a way” to which Biden has committed.
Biden already is on record as saying one of his first acts as president will be to re-enroll the U.S. in the Paris agreement on global warming – which Deese helped negotiate – but the incoming economic adviser says more work needs to be done, particularly engaging with China over honoring its climate commitments.
“We will have a lot of issues, a lot of challenges that have stacked up over the last couple of years with our closest allies around the world,” Deese says.
One takeaway from his work on the 2009 auto-industry bailout: “The risks of doing too little far outweigh the risks of doing too much.”