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第一位在美國金融界實現“大滿貫”的人

第一位在美國金融界實現“大滿貫”的人

Nicole Goodkind 2021年02月14日
被特朗普解雇,被拜登委以重任。

2018年的珍妮特·耶倫。照片來源:Justin Chin—Bloomberg/Getty Images

珍妮特·耶倫很可能會成為一名新一代偶像。她那標志性的銀色波波頭、單鏈珍珠項鏈,和似乎無窮無盡的寶石色外套(永遠都是立領),很容易就讓人聯想到把這位新財長的形象印在T恤上,亦或是把她的剪影放到Instagram雞湯類帖子里的情形。

她天生就是#Girlboss運動的代言人,這項運動把現代女權主義包裝得頗有銷路,推崇永動機般的繁忙日程,把印有“Notorious RBG”標識的商品賣給年輕女孩。在這種環境下,耶倫在Y世代中的人氣應該會很快飛升。

與此同時,耶倫也是華爾街人的老熟人。這位前美聯儲主席從不做驚人之舉——她說了要做什么,就會這么做。金融界樂觀地認為,財政部的新掌門人將以商業為導向,她將成為市場的朋友。

此外,耶倫兩年前離開美聯儲后,從高盛和對沖基金Citadel等公司拿到了700多萬美元的演講費,金融圈也因此更有信心。不過這條消息曝光后,在民主黨內部引發了一些爭議。

進步派喜歡把耶倫看作為美國少數人群謀福利的倡導者。在他們看來,耶倫會推動提高最低工資,加強對影子銀行的監管,推動類似多德-弗蘭克法案的新立法,來保護消費者權益。

在自由派眼里,耶倫則是最終會把華爾街關進籠子里的那個人。

但無論耶倫在人們眼里是什么形象——女權主義英雄、華爾街救世主、進步派寵兒——和她的新工作比,都會相形見絀。

作為拜登政府的財政部長,她是經濟復蘇的主心骨,要負責穩定因受新冠肺炎疫情沖擊而搖搖欲墜的美國經濟。未來幾個月,她的決策將對經濟復蘇的速度產生深遠影響。

耶倫及拜登政府經濟團隊其他成員正面臨令人生畏的挑戰。

盡管美國現在的失業率已經低于去年4月新冠肺炎疫情爆發時14.7%的峰值,但在2020年最后幾個月,即便失業率穩定在6.7%,但這一數字幾乎也是一年前的兩倍。美聯儲已經把利率降至接近0。

疫情期間,成千上萬的小企業永久關閉,而疫情還在繼續肆虐。華盛頓對繼續借錢刺激經濟的擔心也在增加。特朗普執政的四年里,美國國債增長了驚人的7.8萬億美元,部分原因是特朗普于2017年頒布了歷史性的減稅政策,又在去年簽署法案通過了3萬億美元的經濟刺激計劃。

目前,拜登總統提出了名為“美國救援計劃”的1.9萬億美元經濟刺激方案,一些共和黨人以再增加債務將帶來巨大風險隱患為由提出反對。

現在的財政部在前任部長史蒂文·姆努欽治下,規模和職能大幅縮減。

2016年至2019年間,由于預算削減,財政部國內金融、經濟政策和國際事務等主要部門的人員減少了約25%。這些部門要負責國內經濟復蘇、金融政策和援助計劃等重要職能。

姆努欽副手職位空缺兩年,國內金融部門也沒有正式負責人。耶倫必須盡快招募大量人手來填補空缺。

很難想象還有誰能比74歲的耶倫更具資質和風度以勝任這份工作??v觀她的簡歷,每一座事業高峰之后,似乎都跟著另一座更高的高峰,連成了一道由許多“第一個”組成的山脈。

耶倫是全班唯一一位獲得耶魯大學經濟學博士學位的女性,也是當時(在很長一段時間內)哈佛大學唯一一位經濟學女教授。她曾在比爾?克林頓總統任內擔任經濟顧問委員會主席(這次她非常難得地不是“首位”,而是第二位擔任該職務的女性)。2014年,在奧巴馬總統任內,她成為史上首位美聯儲女主席。

現在到了拜登政府,她又獲得了另一個頭銜:第一位女財長。

因為這份新工作,耶倫也成為第一位(不分性別)在美國金融界實現大滿貫的人:經濟顧問委員會主席、美聯儲主席和財政部長。

耶倫已經進入了角色,與拜登一起推動疫情紓困法案能快速在國會通過。

她在接受《財富》雜志采訪時強調,新政府的首要任務包括:100天內成功接種至少1億劑疫苗;重開學校;確保美國人居者有其屋,不用擔心被掃地出門;為多數美國人簽發1400美元的經濟刺激支票,為州和地方政府提供緊急撥款。

在談到經濟刺激法案時,她表示:“我們的首要任務是幫助人們度過疫情難關,讓經濟恢復運轉?!?/p>

這位新財長也響應拜登總統呼吁,號召兩黨在解決問題時,將政治放在第二位。

“我非常希望民主黨和共和黨能摒棄黨爭,共同努力,打破這種已經持續了好幾年的僵局?!币畟愓f,“我認為兩黨內很多人看法都一致。我們需要投資于人民和基礎設施。我們需要解決自身的競爭力問題?!?/p>

商界或許對耶倫感到滿意,但她本人并不是商人。與漢克·保爾森或約翰·斯諾等轉行擔任財政部長的華爾街高管不同,耶倫是一位職業經濟學家。她也并不以股市的走向為指引。

美聯儲前主席、現布魯金斯學會知名研究員本?伯南克表示,耶倫不會以取悅任何特定利益集團為出發點,她想的是“我們如何推動經濟發展,如何確保讓盡可能多的人從中受益”。

如果說姆努欽是華盛頓“最急切的男人”,那出生在布魯克林的耶倫就是華盛頓“準備最充分的女人”。她肯定不會像她的前任那樣,拿著一疊鈔票讓媒體擺拍。

“擺在她面前的是一系列全新的問題,需要她深入研究,她也會深入研究?!辈峡苏f,“我的意思是,除非她準確無誤地弄清楚復雜難懂的稅法中的每一個字,是什么意思,如何解決這個問題,否則她一定不罷休?!?/p>

的確,耶倫以專注聞名。她各個時期的同事都強調,他們與耶倫的關系完全以工作和專業為中心。

耶倫經常說,如果和她們一家人一起吃飯,一定會非常無聊。她和她的丈夫(2001年諾貝爾經濟學獎得主喬治·阿克洛夫)的談話往往是和工作有關的嚴肅討論。她的兒子也加入了這份事業:2009年,他獲得哈佛大學經濟學博士學位,現在英國華威大學任教。

伯南克毫不猶豫地表示,耶倫喜歡提前非常非常久為會議做準備。眾所周知,她會在飛機起飛前好幾個小時趕到機場,她說可以利用這些多出來的時間閱讀。

伯南克補充道:“她是一個一絲不茍、謹慎周到的人。她說話輕聲細語??偸亲鲎懔巳f全的準備,將分析做得一絲不茍。同時,她也不是個膽小羞怯的人,并不害怕站出來發聲。有時候,房間里最安靜的人,恰恰是你最想去傾聽的人?!?/p>

耶倫更喜歡備稿發言,而不是即興發言。

作為布魯金斯學會哈金斯財政和貨幣政策中心主任,大衛·維塞爾與耶倫合作密切,曾經無數次看過她發言。他這樣描述她回答觀眾問題的獨特方式:先在紙上寫下答案并記在心里,接著把紙撕掉。最后才開口說話。

耶倫也擁有不可多得的魅力。舊金山聯邦儲備銀行行長瑪麗·C·戴利說,耶倫特別擅長讓人覺得自己被注意到了。

戴利說:“我們在珍妮特身上似乎見到了另一位埃莉諾·羅斯福?!彼f耶倫是良師益友?!胺块g里可能有成千上萬的人,但當她走上舞臺時,所有人都安靜下來,所有的目光都聚集在她身上。我從來沒見過別人有這種能力?!?/p>

維塞爾說,耶倫也喜歡詢問同事意見,哪怕她可能已經知道自己要怎么做了。耶倫或許真的是求知欲旺盛,但詢問同事意見能立刻讓他們感覺良好。而且,考慮到在耶倫的職業生涯里,她往往是滿屋子德高望重的男性中唯一的女性面孔,掌握這項技能顯然有益無害。

維塞爾說,七國集團、20國集團和國際貨幣基金組織的大人物們都喜歡耶倫,也尊重她。

“她的聲望讓她手握足夠強大的影響力?!彼J為,這種影響能延伸至白宮總統辦公室?!叭绻龥Q定使用這種權力,她對重大經濟政策的影響力將近乎一票否決權?!?/p>

但她究竟會如何運用這種權力還有待觀察。

耶倫在華盛頓的職業生涯大部分都是在美聯儲度過的。美聯儲作為一家獨立機構,要讓貨幣政策決策與政治影響保持一定距離。因此,她一直很小心不過多透露自己的個人傾向,或者說,不過多透露和自己有關的信息。

耶倫有一次罕見地流露了自己的政治立場,讓維塞爾記憶深刻。

那是2014年,耶倫擔任美聯儲主席已近一年,她在波士頓聯邦儲備銀行向全場同事發表了關于經濟機會不平等的講話。

她說,收入和財富不平等程度已達近100年來的最高水平,這種趨勢令她擔憂。然后,她以一種很不美聯儲主席(也很不耶倫)的方式,做了一點點評價。

她說:“我認為有必要問這樣一個問題:美國歷來高度重視機會平等,這是根植于美國歷史的價值觀,現在這種趨勢是否符合這樣的價值觀?”

耶倫知道有記者在場,會對活動進行報道,但她自認為這番言論相當溫和。

顯然,她誤判了形勢?!都~約時報》的尼爾·歐文認為她的言論“十分激進”。

“說出這番話的不是伊麗莎白·沃倫,不是《國家》雜志的編輯,也不是保羅·克魯格曼?!边@是《紐約客》報道這場活動時的開篇。

“(政府里的)每個人都知道耶倫是自由民主黨人,但這真的不應該影響她作為美聯儲主席的職責?!眴讨巍·布什的前經濟顧問、時任哈佛大學經濟系主任的N·格雷戈里·曼昆在《哈佛政治評論》上寫道。

幾個月后,耶倫向國會提交了她的半年度貨幣政策報告。與極左人士相比,耶倫的政治立場似乎更傾向于中間派。但她發現,那時共和黨人仍然在關注她在波士頓的講話。

去年12月,耶倫在拜登總統宣布提名她為美國財政部長后發表演講。照片來源:克里斯頓·杰·貝瑟爾,《紐約時報》/Redux Pictures

“你在插手那些你無權插手的領域,”后來成為特朗普幕僚長的米克·馬爾瓦尼批評道,他當時是來自南卡羅來納州的共和黨眾議員。來自威斯康辛州的共和黨人、MTV電視臺《真實世界》的前演職人員肖恩·達菲指責她有政治偏見。

明顯感到不安的耶倫為自己的立場做了辯護。

“我不是在發表政治聲明,”她說,“我是在討論美國面臨的一個重大問題?!?/p>

她認為自己所說的不過是以數據為基礎進行的分析。而且不管怎樣,“我之前在很多場合都談到過這個話題?!彼颉敦敻弧冯s志表示。

耶倫在2018年經歷了罕見的低潮,時任總統唐納德·特朗普解雇了她,讓杰羅姆·鮑威爾接替她擔任美聯儲主席。

“她很失望,”她的朋友維塞爾說?!八詾樘乩势諘矚g她,有機會再次獲得任命?!辈贿^,她仍然很高興鮑威爾被提名接任,因為這是位她很尊敬的同行。

直到現在,人們也不清楚特朗普為什么要解雇耶倫。一些人猜測,特朗普只是不想讓奧巴馬任命的官員繼續呆在美聯儲。

特朗普曾向《華盛頓郵報》表示,耶倫太矮了,不適合執掌美聯儲。維塞爾還記得耶倫曾經戲謔地說過這個段子?!度A盛頓郵報》報道她身高5.3英尺,但實際上她勉強夠5英尺。

耶倫對維塞爾說,她不會主動要求報社修正,但其他人可以隨意。

去年12月,在特拉華州威爾明頓,耶倫站在當選總統拜登身旁,接受了財政部長的提名。

那次演講中,這位保守的經濟學家難能可貴地吐露了一些心聲,為人們看到她的人生故事打開了一小扇窗口。

她說,她的父親是一名牙醫,開始執業的時候恰逢大蕭條,他在南布魯克林的布什碼頭附近開店,主要給工會工人看牙。

一天工作結束后,他會和年輕的珍妮特討論工人們的生活。如果工人們失去了工作,他會告訴她,他們會面臨經濟和家庭問題,無力支付醫療費,還失去了自我價值。

她在演講中說,這些談話讓她深受觸動。

“觸動之深,讓我成為了一名經濟學家,因為我十分關注失業給人們、家庭和社區帶來的損失?!?/p>

然而,進入男性主導的領域充滿挑戰。

“性騷擾一直存在,”西爾維亞·安·休利特說。她在上世紀70年代初獲得了倫敦大學的經濟學博士學位,之后在哥倫比亞大學任教。

休利特表示,像耶倫在職業生涯中那樣,關注兩性薪酬差距和財富不平等的問題,在當時看來風險很大,對女性而言尤其如此。

“女性有兩個選擇——要么融入優勢群體主導的小圈子,不再發聲,要么就要被當成刺頭?!?/p>

在這種情況下,只有“厚顏無恥”,才能讓一位女經濟學家越過紅線,對業內公認的智者提出質疑。

但耶倫對此不以為然,只是輕描淡寫地表示自己所做的是自然演化的結果。

“當我第一次接觸宏觀經濟學時,我在研究生院學到的觀點是,只要經濟總體表現強勁,失業率保持低位,所有收入階層都會受益——所謂的水漲就能船高?!币畟愒诮邮堋敦敻弧冯s志采訪時表示,“但從80年代中期的某個時刻起,這種情況開始變了,經濟總體良好并不能確保每個人都能受益?!?/p>

耶倫逐漸意識到,盡管充分就業仍然很重要,但這不足以解決大多數美國人長期收入下降的問題。

“因此,多年來我持續關注,試圖理解是什么原因讓工薪階層如此難以取得成功?!彼硎?,“由于整個勞動人口中,有這么多人不能成功,收入和財富不平等才一直處于話題中心?!?/p>

1998年,在克林頓執政時期,耶倫牽頭進行了一項具有里程碑意義的研究,名為《兩性薪資差距趨勢解釋》。這是她職業生涯的關鍵時刻。

這篇論文的結論是,女性的收入比男性低25%,而且論文發表時正值美國慶??夏岬峡偨y簽署《同工同酬法》35周年。媒體對論文的關注大大提升了她的知名度,也最終幫助她在2004年得到了下一個重要職位——舊金山聯邦儲備銀行行長。

在美聯儲任職期間,耶倫對種族平等和經濟的觀點發生了變化。

2015年7月,耶倫在國會作證時遭到了攻擊,因為她的證詞似乎暗示,在改善黑人失業率過高的問題上,美聯儲幾乎無能為力。進步團體和參議員就此向耶倫施壓。她聽進去了。

2016年她再次面對國會時,語氣明顯不同。

她說:“令人擔憂的是,少數族裔的失業率仍然高于全國整體失業率,而非裔美國家庭的年收入中位數,仍然遠遠低于其他美國家庭的收入中位數?!贝蠹s在同一時間,耶倫成立了一個專項工作組,致力于提升美聯儲雇員的多樣性。

現在耶倫將同樣的觀點帶到了財政部。黑人經濟聯盟執行主任、在奧巴馬總統任內擔任財政部執行秘書的戴維·克魯尼一直在與耶倫合作,確保財政部在執行新冠肺炎紓困項目時能關注種族不平等問題。

最近的調查發現,拉美裔和非裔美國人在新冠疫情期間,經歷的經濟困境是美國白人的兩到三倍。疫情對女性的影響也超過了男性。

“我看到的耶倫讓我備受鼓舞?!笨唆斈嵴f,“她似乎擁有了新的自由,可以更直白地表達她對這些現象的感受?!?/p>

耶倫向《財富》雜志表示,在財政部,她將公開對抗不平等問題。

但是,或許是想到了2014年那場充滿爭議的聽證會,她有話要對國會的共和黨朋友們說?!肮べY差距和收入不平等問題不應該被政治化?!彼f,“這是每個人都能看到的事實?!?/p>

另一個事實是,她的新工作比以往任何一份工作都更具政治色彩。耶倫把一直以來對政治的反感和對數據的尊崇帶進了新工作。

而這可能正是美國經濟所需要的。

耶倫列出了她的四大重點工作。

拜登政府目前的主要工作是推動1.9萬億美元的新冠肺炎疫情救助方案落地。但一如往常,耶倫已經對任內工作進行了規劃,明確了她希望完成的其他事項。

以下是她列出的幾大重點工作。

解決收入不平等問題

耶倫認為,解決美國經濟的結構性失衡至關重要。

她說:“過去50年,普通高中學歷工人的工資幾乎沒漲,我們需要改變現狀,確保這些工人拿到應得的薪酬?!彼媱澕哟蠡A設施和研發投資力度、加強工人教育培訓、確保工人學會使用現代技術,以實現上述目標。耶倫還將重點關注小企業貸款項目,增加就業機會。

應對氣候變化

預計拜登團隊將重新關注環境問題。

“應對氣候變化是當務之急。這個問題一定會受到高度關注?!币畟惐硎?。

過去,她曾支持征收碳排放稅,對排污者收費,以股息的形式將資金重新分配給美國家庭。

去年秋天,耶倫作為委員會共同主席,主持討論了如何實現0排放。委員會的建議包括調整激勵措施,促使企業把可持續發展放在首位,利用市場加速轉型,減少化石燃料的使用。

在貿易上挑戰中國

耶倫說,我們需要重置與中國的關系,為了有效做到這一點,美國必須與盟友合作應對共同挑戰,而不是像特朗普政府那樣單打獨斗。

“中國是一個非常具有戰略意義的競爭對手,”她說,美國需要“使用一系列工具”來應對中國采取的戰略。

重振財政部

耶倫說,過去四年,財政部預算被“大幅削減”。部分人員被安排了其他工作,比如監控恐怖主義或其他國家安全風險等,維護國內經濟安全的工作卻沒有人手。

耶倫說,雖然前者“十分重要,需要得到保障”,但是,“在這個過程中,耗盡了財政部其他部門的資源?!彼龑樨斦颗鋫鋵H?,完成解決結構性經濟變化這一首要任務。(財富中文網)

本文發表于《財富》雜志2021年2月/3月刊。

譯者:Agatha

編輯:徐曉彤

2018年的珍妮特·耶倫。照片來源:Justin Chin—Bloomberg/Getty Images

珍妮特·耶倫很可能會成為一名新一代偶像。她那標志性的銀色波波頭、單鏈珍珠項鏈,和似乎無窮無盡的寶石色外套(永遠都是立領),很容易就讓人聯想到把這位新財長的形象印在T恤上,亦或是把她的剪影放到Instagram雞湯類帖子里的情形。

她天生就是#Girlboss運動的代言人,這項運動把現代女權主義包裝得頗有銷路,推崇永動機般的繁忙日程,把印有“Notorious RBG”標識的商品賣給年輕女孩。在這種環境下,耶倫在Y世代中的人氣應該會很快飛升。

與此同時,耶倫也是華爾街人的老熟人。這位前美聯儲主席從不做驚人之舉——她說了要做什么,就會這么做。金融界樂觀地認為,財政部的新掌門人將以商業為導向,她將成為市場的朋友。

此外,耶倫兩年前離開美聯儲后,從高盛和對沖基金Citadel等公司拿到了700多萬美元的演講費,金融圈也因此更有信心。不過這條消息曝光后,在民主黨內部引發了一些爭議。

進步派喜歡把耶倫看作為美國少數人群謀福利的倡導者。在他們看來,耶倫會推動提高最低工資,加強對影子銀行的監管,推動類似多德-弗蘭克法案的新立法,來保護消費者權益。

在自由派眼里,耶倫則是最終會把華爾街關進籠子里的那個人。

但無論耶倫在人們眼里是什么形象——女權主義英雄、華爾街救世主、進步派寵兒——和她的新工作比,都會相形見絀。

作為拜登政府的財政部長,她是經濟復蘇的主心骨,要負責穩定因受新冠肺炎疫情沖擊而搖搖欲墜的美國經濟。未來幾個月,她的決策將對經濟復蘇的速度產生深遠影響。

耶倫及拜登政府經濟團隊其他成員正面臨令人生畏的挑戰。

盡管美國現在的失業率已經低于去年4月新冠肺炎疫情爆發時14.7%的峰值,但在2020年最后幾個月,即便失業率穩定在6.7%,但這一數字幾乎也是一年前的兩倍。美聯儲已經把利率降至接近0。

疫情期間,成千上萬的小企業永久關閉,而疫情還在繼續肆虐。華盛頓對繼續借錢刺激經濟的擔心也在增加。特朗普執政的四年里,美國國債增長了驚人的7.8萬億美元,部分原因是特朗普于2017年頒布了歷史性的減稅政策,又在去年簽署法案通過了3萬億美元的經濟刺激計劃。

目前,拜登總統提出了名為“美國救援計劃”的1.9萬億美元經濟刺激方案,一些共和黨人以再增加債務將帶來巨大風險隱患為由提出反對。

現在的財政部在前任部長史蒂文·姆努欽治下,規模和職能大幅縮減。

2016年至2019年間,由于預算削減,財政部國內金融、經濟政策和國際事務等主要部門的人員減少了約25%。這些部門要負責國內經濟復蘇、金融政策和援助計劃等重要職能。

姆努欽副手職位空缺兩年,國內金融部門也沒有正式負責人。耶倫必須盡快招募大量人手來填補空缺。

很難想象還有誰能比74歲的耶倫更具資質和風度以勝任這份工作??v觀她的簡歷,每一座事業高峰之后,似乎都跟著另一座更高的高峰,連成了一道由許多“第一個”組成的山脈。

耶倫是全班唯一一位獲得耶魯大學經濟學博士學位的女性,也是當時(在很長一段時間內)哈佛大學唯一一位經濟學女教授。她曾在比爾?克林頓總統任內擔任經濟顧問委員會主席(這次她非常難得地不是“首位”,而是第二位擔任該職務的女性)。2014年,在奧巴馬總統任內,她成為史上首位美聯儲女主席。

現在到了拜登政府,她又獲得了另一個頭銜:第一位女財長。

因為這份新工作,耶倫也成為第一位(不分性別)在美國金融界實現大滿貫的人:經濟顧問委員會主席、美聯儲主席和財政部長。

耶倫已經進入了角色,與拜登一起推動疫情紓困法案能快速在國會通過。

她在接受《財富》雜志采訪時強調,新政府的首要任務包括:100天內成功接種至少1億劑疫苗;重開學校;確保美國人居者有其屋,不用擔心被掃地出門;為多數美國人簽發1400美元的經濟刺激支票,為州和地方政府提供緊急撥款。

在談到經濟刺激法案時,她表示:“我們的首要任務是幫助人們度過疫情難關,讓經濟恢復運轉?!?/p>

這位新財長也響應拜登總統呼吁,號召兩黨在解決問題時,將政治放在第二位。

“我非常希望民主黨和共和黨能摒棄黨爭,共同努力,打破這種已經持續了好幾年的僵局?!币畟愓f,“我認為兩黨內很多人看法都一致。我們需要投資于人民和基礎設施。我們需要解決自身的競爭力問題?!?/p>

商界或許對耶倫感到滿意,但她本人并不是商人。與漢克·保爾森或約翰·斯諾等轉行擔任財政部長的華爾街高管不同,耶倫是一位職業經濟學家。她也并不以股市的走向為指引。

美聯儲前主席、現布魯金斯學會知名研究員本?伯南克表示,耶倫不會以取悅任何特定利益集團為出發點,她想的是“我們如何推動經濟發展,如何確保讓盡可能多的人從中受益”。

如果說姆努欽是華盛頓“最急切的男人”,那出生在布魯克林的耶倫就是華盛頓“準備最充分的女人”。她肯定不會像她的前任那樣,拿著一疊鈔票讓媒體擺拍。

“擺在她面前的是一系列全新的問題,需要她深入研究,她也會深入研究?!辈峡苏f,“我的意思是,除非她準確無誤地弄清楚復雜難懂的稅法中的每一個字,是什么意思,如何解決這個問題,否則她一定不罷休?!?/p>

的確,耶倫以專注聞名。她各個時期的同事都強調,他們與耶倫的關系完全以工作和專業為中心。

耶倫經常說,如果和她們一家人一起吃飯,一定會非常無聊。她和她的丈夫(2001年諾貝爾經濟學獎得主喬治·阿克洛夫)的談話往往是和工作有關的嚴肅討論。她的兒子也加入了這份事業:2009年,他獲得哈佛大學經濟學博士學位,現在英國華威大學任教。

伯南克毫不猶豫地表示,耶倫喜歡提前非常非常久為會議做準備。眾所周知,她會在飛機起飛前好幾個小時趕到機場,她說可以利用這些多出來的時間閱讀。

伯南克補充道:“她是一個一絲不茍、謹慎周到的人。她說話輕聲細語??偸亲鲎懔巳f全的準備,將分析做得一絲不茍。同時,她也不是個膽小羞怯的人,并不害怕站出來發聲。有時候,房間里最安靜的人,恰恰是你最想去傾聽的人?!?/p>

耶倫更喜歡備稿發言,而不是即興發言。

作為布魯金斯學會哈金斯財政和貨幣政策中心主任,大衛·維塞爾與耶倫合作密切,曾經無數次看過她發言。他這樣描述她回答觀眾問題的獨特方式:先在紙上寫下答案并記在心里,接著把紙撕掉。最后才開口說話。

耶倫也擁有不可多得的魅力。舊金山聯邦儲備銀行行長瑪麗·C·戴利說,耶倫特別擅長讓人覺得自己被注意到了。

戴利說:“我們在珍妮特身上似乎見到了另一位埃莉諾·羅斯福?!彼f耶倫是良師益友?!胺块g里可能有成千上萬的人,但當她走上舞臺時,所有人都安靜下來,所有的目光都聚集在她身上。我從來沒見過別人有這種能力?!?/p>

維塞爾說,耶倫也喜歡詢問同事意見,哪怕她可能已經知道自己要怎么做了。耶倫或許真的是求知欲旺盛,但詢問同事意見能立刻讓他們感覺良好。而且,考慮到在耶倫的職業生涯里,她往往是滿屋子德高望重的男性中唯一的女性面孔,掌握這項技能顯然有益無害。

維塞爾說,七國集團、20國集團和國際貨幣基金組織的大人物們都喜歡耶倫,也尊重她。

“她的聲望讓她手握足夠強大的影響力?!彼J為,這種影響能延伸至白宮總統辦公室?!叭绻龥Q定使用這種權力,她對重大經濟政策的影響力將近乎一票否決權?!?/p>

但她究竟會如何運用這種權力還有待觀察。

耶倫在華盛頓的職業生涯大部分都是在美聯儲度過的。美聯儲作為一家獨立機構,要讓貨幣政策決策與政治影響保持一定距離。因此,她一直很小心不過多透露自己的個人傾向,或者說,不過多透露和自己有關的信息。

耶倫有一次罕見地流露了自己的政治立場,讓維塞爾記憶深刻。

那是2014年,耶倫擔任美聯儲主席已近一年,她在波士頓聯邦儲備銀行向全場同事發表了關于經濟機會不平等的講話。

她說,收入和財富不平等程度已達近100年來的最高水平,這種趨勢令她擔憂。然后,她以一種很不美聯儲主席(也很不耶倫)的方式,做了一點點評價。

她說:“我認為有必要問這樣一個問題:美國歷來高度重視機會平等,這是根植于美國歷史的價值觀,現在這種趨勢是否符合這樣的價值觀?”

耶倫知道有記者在場,會對活動進行報道,但她自認為這番言論相當溫和。

顯然,她誤判了形勢?!都~約時報》的尼爾·歐文認為她的言論“十分激進”。

“說出這番話的不是伊麗莎白·沃倫,不是《國家》雜志的編輯,也不是保羅·克魯格曼?!边@是《紐約客》報道這場活動時的開篇。

“(政府里的)每個人都知道耶倫是自由民主黨人,但這真的不應該影響她作為美聯儲主席的職責?!眴讨巍·布什的前經濟顧問、時任哈佛大學經濟系主任的N·格雷戈里·曼昆在《哈佛政治評論》上寫道。

幾個月后,耶倫向國會提交了她的半年度貨幣政策報告。與極左人士相比,耶倫的政治立場似乎更傾向于中間派。但她發現,那時共和黨人仍然在關注她在波士頓的講話。

去年12月,耶倫在拜登總統宣布提名她為美國財政部長后發表演講。照片來源:克里斯頓·杰·貝瑟爾,《紐約時報》/Redux Pictures

“你在插手那些你無權插手的領域,”后來成為特朗普幕僚長的米克·馬爾瓦尼批評道,他當時是來自南卡羅來納州的共和黨眾議員。來自威斯康辛州的共和黨人、MTV電視臺《真實世界》的前演職人員肖恩·達菲指責她有政治偏見。

明顯感到不安的耶倫為自己的立場做了辯護。

“我不是在發表政治聲明,”她說,“我是在討論美國面臨的一個重大問題?!?/p>

她認為自己所說的不過是以數據為基礎進行的分析。而且不管怎樣,“我之前在很多場合都談到過這個話題?!彼颉敦敻弧冯s志表示。

耶倫在2018年經歷了罕見的低潮,時任總統唐納德·特朗普解雇了她,讓杰羅姆·鮑威爾接替她擔任美聯儲主席。

“她很失望,”她的朋友維塞爾說?!八詾樘乩势諘矚g她,有機會再次獲得任命?!辈贿^,她仍然很高興鮑威爾被提名接任,因為這是位她很尊敬的同行。

直到現在,人們也不清楚特朗普為什么要解雇耶倫。一些人猜測,特朗普只是不想讓奧巴馬任命的官員繼續呆在美聯儲。

特朗普曾向《華盛頓郵報》表示,耶倫太矮了,不適合執掌美聯儲。維塞爾還記得耶倫曾經戲謔地說過這個段子?!度A盛頓郵報》報道她身高5.3英尺,但實際上她勉強夠5英尺。

耶倫對維塞爾說,她不會主動要求報社修正,但其他人可以隨意。

去年12月,在特拉華州威爾明頓,耶倫站在當選總統拜登身旁,接受了財政部長的提名。

那次演講中,這位保守的經濟學家難能可貴地吐露了一些心聲,為人們看到她的人生故事打開了一小扇窗口。

她說,她的父親是一名牙醫,開始執業的時候恰逢大蕭條,他在南布魯克林的布什碼頭附近開店,主要給工會工人看牙。

一天工作結束后,他會和年輕的珍妮特討論工人們的生活。如果工人們失去了工作,他會告訴她,他們會面臨經濟和家庭問題,無力支付醫療費,還失去了自我價值。

她在演講中說,這些談話讓她深受觸動。

“觸動之深,讓我成為了一名經濟學家,因為我十分關注失業給人們、家庭和社區帶來的損失?!?/p>

然而,進入男性主導的領域充滿挑戰。

“性騷擾一直存在,”西爾維亞·安·休利特說。她在上世紀70年代初獲得了倫敦大學的經濟學博士學位,之后在哥倫比亞大學任教。

休利特表示,像耶倫在職業生涯中那樣,關注兩性薪酬差距和財富不平等的問題,在當時看來風險很大,對女性而言尤其如此。

“女性有兩個選擇——要么融入優勢群體主導的小圈子,不再發聲,要么就要被當成刺頭?!?/p>

在這種情況下,只有“厚顏無恥”,才能讓一位女經濟學家越過紅線,對業內公認的智者提出質疑。

但耶倫對此不以為然,只是輕描淡寫地表示自己所做的是自然演化的結果。

“當我第一次接觸宏觀經濟學時,我在研究生院學到的觀點是,只要經濟總體表現強勁,失業率保持低位,所有收入階層都會受益——所謂的水漲就能船高?!币畟愒诮邮堋敦敻弧冯s志采訪時表示,“但從80年代中期的某個時刻起,這種情況開始變了,經濟總體良好并不能確保每個人都能受益?!?/p>

耶倫逐漸意識到,盡管充分就業仍然很重要,但這不足以解決大多數美國人長期收入下降的問題。

“因此,多年來我持續關注,試圖理解是什么原因讓工薪階層如此難以取得成功?!彼硎?,“由于整個勞動人口中,有這么多人不能成功,收入和財富不平等才一直處于話題中心?!?/p>

1998年,在克林頓執政時期,耶倫牽頭進行了一項具有里程碑意義的研究,名為《兩性薪資差距趨勢解釋》。這是她職業生涯的關鍵時刻。

這篇論文的結論是,女性的收入比男性低25%,而且論文發表時正值美國慶??夏岬峡偨y簽署《同工同酬法》35周年。媒體對論文的關注大大提升了她的知名度,也最終幫助她在2004年得到了下一個重要職位——舊金山聯邦儲備銀行行長。

在美聯儲任職期間,耶倫對種族平等和經濟的觀點發生了變化。

2015年7月,耶倫在國會作證時遭到了攻擊,因為她的證詞似乎暗示,在改善黑人失業率過高的問題上,美聯儲幾乎無能為力。進步團體和參議員就此向耶倫施壓。她聽進去了。

2016年她再次面對國會時,語氣明顯不同。

她說:“令人擔憂的是,少數族裔的失業率仍然高于全國整體失業率,而非裔美國家庭的年收入中位數,仍然遠遠低于其他美國家庭的收入中位數?!贝蠹s在同一時間,耶倫成立了一個專項工作組,致力于提升美聯儲雇員的多樣性。

現在耶倫將同樣的觀點帶到了財政部。黑人經濟聯盟執行主任、在奧巴馬總統任內擔任財政部執行秘書的戴維·克魯尼一直在與耶倫合作,確保財政部在執行新冠肺炎紓困項目時能關注種族不平等問題。

最近的調查發現,拉美裔和非裔美國人在新冠疫情期間,經歷的經濟困境是美國白人的兩到三倍。疫情對女性的影響也超過了男性。

“我看到的耶倫讓我備受鼓舞?!笨唆斈嵴f,“她似乎擁有了新的自由,可以更直白地表達她對這些現象的感受?!?/p>

耶倫向《財富》雜志表示,在財政部,她將公開對抗不平等問題。

但是,或許是想到了2014年那場充滿爭議的聽證會,她有話要對國會的共和黨朋友們說?!肮べY差距和收入不平等問題不應該被政治化?!彼f,“這是每個人都能看到的事實?!?/p>

另一個事實是,她的新工作比以往任何一份工作都更具政治色彩。耶倫把一直以來對政治的反感和對數據的尊崇帶進了新工作。

而這可能正是美國經濟所需要的。

耶倫列出了她的四大重點工作。

拜登政府目前的主要工作是推動1.9萬億美元的新冠肺炎疫情救助方案落地。但一如往常,耶倫已經對任內工作進行了規劃,明確了她希望完成的其他事項。

以下是她列出的幾大重點工作。

解決收入不平等問題

耶倫認為,解決美國經濟的結構性失衡至關重要。

她說:“過去50年,普通高中學歷工人的工資幾乎沒漲,我們需要改變現狀,確保這些工人拿到應得的薪酬?!彼媱澕哟蠡A設施和研發投資力度、加強工人教育培訓、確保工人學會使用現代技術,以實現上述目標。耶倫還將重點關注小企業貸款項目,增加就業機會。

應對氣候變化

預計拜登團隊將重新關注環境問題。

“應對氣候變化是當務之急。這個問題一定會受到高度關注?!币畟惐硎?。

過去,她曾支持征收碳排放稅,對排污者收費,以股息的形式將資金重新分配給美國家庭。

去年秋天,耶倫作為委員會共同主席,主持討論了如何實現0排放。委員會的建議包括調整激勵措施,促使企業把可持續發展放在首位,利用市場加速轉型,減少化石燃料的使用。

在貿易上挑戰中國

耶倫說,我們需要重置與中國的關系,為了有效做到這一點,美國必須與盟友合作應對共同挑戰,而不是像特朗普政府那樣單打獨斗。

“中國是一個非常具有戰略意義的競爭對手,”她說,美國需要“使用一系列工具”來應對中國采取的戰略。

重振財政部

耶倫說,過去四年,財政部預算被“大幅削減”。部分人員被安排了其他工作,比如監控恐怖主義或其他國家安全風險等,維護國內經濟安全的工作卻沒有人手。

耶倫說,雖然前者“十分重要,需要得到保障”,但是,“在這個過程中,耗盡了財政部其他部門的資源?!彼龑樨斦颗鋫鋵H?,完成解決結構性經濟變化這一首要任務。(財富中文網)

本文發表于《財富》雜志2021年2月/3月刊。

譯者:Agatha

編輯:徐曉彤

Janet Yellen is an icon waiting to happen. With her signature silver bob, single-strand pearl necklace, and seemingly infinite supply of jewel-toned jackets (collar popped, always), it’s easy to imagine the new Treasury secretary’s image emblazoned on T-shirts and her silhouette outlined on inspirational Instagram posts. She’s a natural fit as an emblem of the #Girlboss movement that has so finely boiled down modern feminism into a shallow yet marketable vestige of unadulterated capitalism—a conceit used to describe the relentless rise-and-grind schedules of business leaders like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg, and to help sell “Notorious RBG” merch to young women. Yellen’s Q score with Gen Y should soon be on the rise.

On Wall Street, meanwhile, Yellen is seen as a known quantity. The former Fed chair is someone who doesn’t make surprise decisions—who says what she’s going to do and then does just that. Big Finance is optimistic that she’ll be a business-oriented leader at Treasury and a friend to markets. That confidence is only bolstered by the fact that Yellen collected more than $7 million in speaking fees from the likes of Goldman Sachs and hedge fund Citadel since leaving the Fed two years ago—a revelation that stirred a bit of controversy among Democrats.

Progressives like to think of Yellen as an advocate for underrepresented Americans. They see her as someone who will push for a higher minimum wage, more regulation of shadow banking, and new legislation in the mode of Dodd-Frank to protect consumers. To liberals, Yellen is someone who will at last put the guardrails on Wall Street.

But no matter what persona is projected onto Yellen—feminist hero, Wall Street savior, progressive darling—the magnitude of her new day job dwarfs all of them in consequence. As Treasury secretary, she is running point for the Biden administration’s efforts to stabilize a teetering U.S. economy that has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her decisions over the next few months will have a profound impact on how quickly the economy can rebound.

The challenges facing Yellen and the rest of President Joe Biden’s economic team are daunting. Though the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen from its COVID peak of 14.7% last April, it plateaued at 6.7% in the final months of 2020, nearly twice as high as a year earlier. The Federal Reserve has already taken rates down to near zero. Thousands of small businesses have closed for good during the pandemic, which continues to ravage the country. And there is rising concern in Washington about continued borrowing to stimulate the economy. The U.S. national debt grew by a stunning $7.8 trillion over the past four years under the Trump administration, driven in part by Trump’s signature 2017 tax cuts and the $3 trillion in stimulus funding Trump signed into law last year. Some Republicans are now using the specter of further debt to push back against President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, dubbed the “American Rescue Plan.”

Yellen is also taking the reins at a Treasury Department that has been greatly reduced in size and capacity under her predecessor, Steven Mnuchin. Between 2016 and 2019, the Treasury’s main offices, including domestic finance, economic policy, and international affairs, saw staffing drop by about 25% as budgets fell. Those departments control responses to the economic recovery, financial policy, and grant programs. Mnuchin operated without a deputy for two years and left the division of domestic finance without an official leader. Yellen will have to bring in a number of people, and quickly, to fill empty positions.

But it’s hard to imagine a leader with more sparkling credentials—or a better demeanor—for the work at hand than the 74-year-old Yellen. Each career peak on her résumé has been seemingly followed by another, higher summit—a mountain range of firsts. Yellen was the only woman in her class to earn an economics Ph.D. at Yale University, and she was then (for quite some time) the sole female economics professor at Harvard University. She served under President Bill Clinton as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (a rare non-first moment; she was the second woman to serve in that role). In 2014, she was confirmed as the first female chair of the Federal Reserve, under Barack Obama. Now, under President Biden, she’s achieved yet another title: the first woman secretary of the Treasury.

Her new job also makes Yellen the first person—of any gender—to complete the holy trinity of the U.S. finance circuit: Council of Economic Advisers chair, Fed chair, and Treasury secretary.

Yellen has hit the ground running, working with Biden to get his COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress quickly. In a conversation with Fortune, she underscores the new administration’s top priorities: a successful distribution of at least 100 million doses of vaccine within 100 days; reopening schools; making sure Americans are able to remain in their homes without fear of eviction; and providing a $1,400 stimulus check to a majority of Americans and emergency funding for state and local governments. “It’s a priority to help get us through the pandemic, to get our economy functioning again,” she says of the stimulus legislation.

The new Treasury secretary also echoes President Biden’s calls for both parties to dial back politics in the interest of problem-solving. “I hope very much that we can work in a bipartisan way, Democrats and Republicans, to get beyond this sort of stalemate that has been around for a number of years now,” says Yellen. “I think that many people agree on both sides of the aisle. We need to invest in our people and our infrastructure. We need to solve our competitiveness.”

*****

The business world may be comfortable with Yellen, but she’s no businessperson herself. Unlike Hank Paulson or John Snow, Wall Street execs turned Treasury heads, Yellen is a career economist. And the direction of the stock market is not her North Star. Yellen’s perspective, says Ben Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chair and now distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution, isn’t to please any particular interest group. Rather, it’s “how do we get the economy going, and how do we make sure the benefits are spread as widely as possible?”

If Mnuchin was the Beltway’s “most eager man,” as he’s been called, the Brooklyn-born Yellen is Washington’s “most prepared woman.” She certainly won’t be arranging photo ops with sheets of money, as her predecessor did. “She’s got a whole new set of issues that she’s going to have to dig into, and she will,” says Bernanke. “I mean, she won’t be satisfied until she understands exactly why every particular line in the tax code is as unintelligible as it is, what it means, and how to fix that.”

Indeed, Yellen is legendary for her focus. Her colleagues past and present emphasize that their relationship with Yellen is centered wholly around work and shoptalk. She often remarks that people would be bored if they joined her family for dinner, as she and her husband, George Akerlof, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, usually engage in rigorous work-related discussion. Her son is also in the family business; he received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 2009 and teaches at the University of Warwick in England.

Bernanke is quick to point out that Yellen prefers to prepare for meetings very, very far in advance. She’s known for showing up to airports hours before her flight; she says that she uses the extra time to read. Adds Bernanke: “She’s a meticulous, cautious, thoughtful person. She speaks quietly. She’s well prepared, and she’s done all of the analysis. But she’s not a shrinking violet, and she’s not afraid to speak up. Sometimes the quietest person in the room is the person you most want to listen to.”

Yellen prefers to read from notes rather than speak off the cuff. As director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, David Wessel has worked closely with Yellen and has seen her speak more times than he can count. He describes her unique procedure for answering audience questions. First, she writes out her response and commits it to memory. Next, she rips up the paper. And finally she speaks.

But Yellen also possesses a rare charisma. Mary C. Daly, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, says Yellen is especially skilled at making people feel seen. “I feel like we’ve met another Eleanor Roosevelt in Janet,” says Daly, who calls Yellen a mentor and a friend. “There can be a room of thousands of people, but when she walks up to the stage, everybody goes quiet, and all eyes are on her. I’ve never seen that happen with anybody else.”

She also makes a habit of asking colleagues for their opinions, even when it’s likely that she already knows what she’s going to do, says Wessel. Yellen may be genuinely curious, but soliciting input also offers colleagues a quick ego rub. And massaging egos is a skill that certainly doesn’t hurt Yellen, who has made a career of being the only woman in rooms full of well-venerated men.

The people sitting around the tables at the G7 and G20 and the IMF like Yellen but also respect her, says Wessel. “Her stature will give her substantial influence in the administration.” That influence will extend to the Oval Office, he predicts. “When she chooses to use it, she’ll have something close to veto power over big economic policies.”

But how exactly she wields that power remains to be seen. Yellen has spent the majority of her Washington career working at the Federal Reserve, an independent agency charged with keeping monetary policy decisions at arm’s length from political influence. As a result, she has been careful about revealing her personal leanings, or much about herself at all.

*****

One event sticks out in Wessel’s mind as a moment when Yellen gave a rare glimpse of her political stripes. It was 2014 and Yellen was nearly a year into her role as Fed chair when she gave a speech on the inequality of economic opportunity to a room full of her peers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Income and wealth inequality, she said, were near their highest levels in the past 100 years, and the trend concerned her. And then, in an un–Fed chair (and un-Yellen) way, she editorialized just a little. “I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity,” she said.

Yellen knew that reporters were there to cover the talk, but she believed her remarks were relatively benign.

Apparently, she misjudged. Neil Irwin of the New York Times called her words “downright radical.”

“No, that wasn’t Elizabeth Warren, or the editor of The Nation, or Paul Krugman,” began the New Yorker story about the event.

“Everyone [in the government community] knows that Yellen is a liberal Democrat, but that really shouldn’t influence her job as Federal Reserve chair,” commented N. Gregory Mankiw, former economic adviser to George W. Bush and then-chair of the Harvard economics department, to the Harvard Political Review.

Months later, Yellen, who appears to skew much closer to the center of the political spectrum than the far left, reported to Congress to deliver her semiannual monetary policy report. But she found that Republicans were still focused on her remarks in Boston.

“You’re sticking your nose in places that you have no business to be,” scolded future Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, then a Republican representative from South Carolina. Rep. Sean Duffy, a Republican from Wisconsin and former cast member of MTV’s The Real World, accused her of political bias.

A visibly rattled Yellen defended her position. “I am not making political statements,” she said. “I am discussing a significant problem that faces America.”

She didn’t see what she was saying as anything but data-driven analysis. And anyway, “it had been a topic I’d addressed on a number of occasions before,” she tells Fortune.

Yellen experienced a rare setback in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump essentially axed her and replaced her as Fed chair with Jerome Powell. “She was disappointed,” says her friend Wessel. “She thought that Trump liked her and that she had a shot at being reappointed.” Still, she was happy that Powell, a peer she respects, was nominated to do the job.

It’s still unclear exactly why Trump got rid of Yellen. Some speculate that he just didn’t want an Obama appointment at the Fed. Trump told the Washington Post that he thought she was too short to run the Fed. Wessel remembers her joking about the story. The Post said she was five-three when in reality she’s barely five-feet even. She wasn’t going to call in a correction, Yellen told Wessel, but somebody else could feel free to.

*****

In December, Yellen stood next to President-elect Biden in Wilmington, Del., as she accepted his nomination for Treasury secretary. There, in a speech that was uniquely candid for the reserved economist, she offered a window into how she became the person she is today.

Her father, she said, was a dentist who began his business during the Great Depression, setting up shop near Bush Terminal, a group of docks in South Brooklyn. He worked on the teeth of union workers. At the end of the day, he’d discuss their lives with young Janet. If they had lost a job, he would tell her about their financial and family problems, their inability to afford health care, their loss of self-worth.

Those lessons stuck with her “so much so that I became an economist because I was concerned about the toll of unemployment on people, families, and communities,” she said in her speech.

But entering a male-dominated field was not without challenges. “The sexual harassment was ever present,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of London in the early 1970s before teaching at Columbia University. The idea of focusing on gender pay gaps and wealth inequality, as Yellen came to do in her career, was risky at the time, especially for a woman, says Hewlett. “Women had two choices—either they joined the dominant group and didn’t write about it, or you were seen as a sore thumb.”

In that context, it took chutzpah for a female economist to step out of line and raise questions about the accepted wisdom in the field. But Yellen downplays that narrative, and describes her work as a natural evolution.

“When I first went into macroeconomics, the view that I had and had learned in graduate school was that a generally strong economy with a low unemployment rate would benefit workers across the income spectrum—that a so-called rising tide lifts all boats,” Yellen tells Fortune. “But sometime in the mid-’80s that really began to change, and it became no longer true that when the economy was doing well overall that everybody benefited.”

Yellen came to realize that while full employment was still important, it wasn’t enough to address long-term declines in income for the majority of Americans. “And so I have focused for many years on understanding what the forces are that have been making it so difficult for workers to succeed,” she says. “And because such a large share of the workforce hasn’t been able to get ahead, income and wealth inequality has been the theme.”

In 1998, under Bill Clinton, Yellen took the lead on a landmark study, “Explaining Trends in the Gender Wage Gap.” It proved to be a pivotal moment in her career. The paper concluded that women earned 25% less than men, and it was published just as America was celebrating the 35th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing of the Equal Pay Act. The resulting media attention elevated her profile and eventually helped boost her into her next major role as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in 2004.

While at the Fed, Yellen’s views on racial justice and the economy evolved. In July of 2015, Yellen received some blowback from testimony she gave to Congress that seemed to imply that there was little the Federal Reserve could do to improve disproportionately high Black unemployment rates. Progressive groups and senators pushed Yellen on the topic. She listened.

When she met again with Congress in 2016, she took a markedly different tone. “It is troubling that unemployment rates for these minority groups remain higher than for the nation overall, and that the annual income of the median African-American household is still well below the median income of other U.S. households,” she said. Around the same time, Yellen created a task force to diversify hiring practices within the Federal Reserve itself.

Now Yellen is bringing that same perspective to the Treasury. David Clunie, executive director of the Black Economic Alliance and the executive secretary of the Department of the Treasury under President Barack Obama, has been working with Yellen to ensure that the department is focused on racial inequality while working through COVID-relief programs. Recent surveys found that Latino and Black Americans have experienced economic hardship during COVID-19 two to three times as great as that of white Americans. The pandemic has also had a disproportionate effect on women compared with men. (See “Is America Giving Up on Working Women?”) “I’ve been encouraged by what I’ve seen," says Clunie. “She seems to have a new freedom to speak in much more outward terms about what this means to her personally.”

Yellen tells Fortune that at the Treasury she will fight publicly to address inequality. But, perhaps thinking back to that contentious 2014 hearing, she has a message for her Republican friends in Congress. “The wage gap and income inequality should not be politicized,” she says. “They’re facts that everyone recognizes.”

It’s also a fact that her new job is more overtly political than any she has held before. Yellen brings to it a distaste for politics as usual and a reverence for data. And that might be just what the economy needs.?

*****

Straight from the secretary’s mouth

Yellen outlines four of her top priorities.

The push for a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is the Biden administration’s chief focus now. But true to form, Secretary Yellen has already outlined her tenure at the Treasury and identified what else she wants to accomplish. Here is what lies at the top of her list.

Tackling income inequality

Yellen believes it’s critical to address the economy’s structural imbalance. “We have an economy where the typical high school–educated worker is barely seeing any wage increase for the last 50 years, and we need to change that and make sure that those workers get the kind of pay they deserve,” she says. That will happen by investing in infrastructure and R&D, and by educating workers so that they have the skills to utilize modern technology. Yellen also plans to focus on small-business loan programs to help boost job creation.

Taking on climate change

Expect a renewed focus on the environment from the Biden team. “Climate change is a big priority. It’s going to be very clearly in focus,” says Yellen. In the past, she’s supported a carbon tax that would charge polluters for emissions and redistribute funds to U.S. households through dividends. Last fall, Yellen cochaired a committee on how to achieve net-zero emissions. Recommendations included shifting incentives for companies to prioritize sustainability and using markets to speed the transition from fossil fuels.

Challenging China on trade

We need to reset the relationship with China, says Yellen, and in order to do so effectively the U.S. will have to work with allies to address common challenges instead of operating unilaterally as the Trump administration preferred. “China is a very strategic competitor,” she says, noting that the U.S. needs to “use an array of tools” to address a number of disruptive actions taken by China, such as “dumping products, erecting trade barriers, and giving illegal subsidies to corporations.” Those actions are “hurting our economy,” she says.

Rebuilding capacity at Treasury

The Treasury budget over the past four years has been “cut enormously,” says Yellen. There has been a reallocation of personnel toward activities ranging from monitoring terrorism and other national security concerns and away from economic security at home. While the former are “important things for us to preserve,” says Yellen, “in the process, other areas of the Treasury have really been depleted.” She will be staffing up Treasury with people dedicated to her overarching mission of addressing structural economic changes.

This article appears in the February/March 2021 issue of Fortune.

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