New Economic Adviser A Trusted Veteran

A former senior fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and an Obama adminstration alum, Deese has powerful allies on Capitol Hill.

President-elect Joe Biden named Brian Deese as head of his National Economic Council (NEC), making him the top economic adviser in the incoming administration. The 42-year-old Yale Law School alumnus is a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns, having written expert policy memos for John Kerry, then working for Hillary Clinton in 2008 before switching to Barack Obama’s team. Following Obama to the White House, he was part of the team that devised a rescue package for the American auto industry and later participated in negotiations for the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Laurence Tubiana, who was France’s climate change ambassador in 2015, remembers Deese’s ability to bring countries together to sign the pact. Obama has said Deese was the one who actually “engineered” the agreement. Says Biden, the new NEC director will be “a trusted voice I can count on to help us end the ongoing economic crisis, build a better economy that deals everybody in and take on the existential threat of climate change in a way that creates good-paying American jobs.”

A former senior fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Deese has powerful allies; but he also faces questions from some environmental activists regarding his previous role as global head of sustainable investing at the powerful investment manager BlackRock.

“The revolving door between Wall Street and the White House does no good for working people or the planet,” says Evan Weber, political director of the Sunrise Movement. A group of environmental activist organizations has described Deese as a “greenwasher.” For his part, Deese can point to his influence on BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who vowed in a 2020 letter to concentrate on sustainable investments. But if Deese plans to focus on sustainability, he will have to get busy fast; Biden has promised to spend $2 trillion over the next four years to reduce carbon emissions.