Joe Biden has a vast team of advisers working on plans to boost the economy in the event that the former vice president wins the presidential election. While some are big names who served in the Obama administration, a report in The New York Times Monday says a relatively young and little-known tax and budget expert named Ben Harris is coordinating the Biden campaign’s economic platform, and the policies he is crafting could play an important role in managing the economy starting early next year.
Finding compromise: The challenge for Harris, who serves as the Biden campaign’s senior economic adviser, is to balance two important but divergent interest groups in the Democratic Party: progressives on the left, many of whom think President Barack Obama was too timid when it came to combating the Great Recession, and business-oriented centrists who worry that progressives will be too aggressive in their efforts to repair a pandemic-ravaged economy in 2021 and beyond.
According to the Times’ Jim Tankersley, Harris has successfully threaded the needle between the groups, crafting proposals for the tax hikes and increased spending progressives want in ways that centrists can accept and even embrace.
“The economic agenda Mr. Harris helped craft includes income and investment tax increases on top earners, higher taxes for corporations and a variety of spending increases in areas like clean energy, infrastructure and higher education,” Tankersley writes. “While those plans remain far less aggressive than the tax-and-spending ideas of Mr. Biden’s more liberal primary campaign rivals, he has managed to avoid sharp criticism from the left-leaning economists who have pushed for historically large tax increases on corporations and the rich.”
Gathering support: In addition to pleasing the progressive wing, the compromises Harris has wrought have been embraced by Wall Street, which has poured money in the Biden campaign, and the general public, which generally approves of higher taxes on the wealthy and increased spending on public goods.
Harris’s policies also tend to play well with the budget models that can make or break a policy proposal in Washington. The personal income tax hikes Biden has proposed, for example, are similar to those proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but are structured within the existing tax code and come at a lower economic cost. That could help a potential Biden administration get its agenda through Congress as it takes up the fight against the coronavirus early next year.