Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opened the DealBook DC Policy Project, moderated by The New York Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, about the prospects for a post-pandemic recovery.
Highlights from the discussion:
“We need to make sure that those who are most affected are not permanently scarred by this crisis,” Ms. Yellen said. In terms of how to measure the success of the recovery, “success, to me, would be if we could get back to pre-pandemic levels of employment,” she added.
Although U.S. debt levels are much higher than they were during the 2008 financial crisis, because of lower interest rates, the share of interest payments as a share of G.D.P. today is roughly the same. “I think we have more fiscal space than we used to because of the interest rate environment, and I think we should consider using it,” she said.
“I don’t think that Bitcoin is widely used as a transaction mechanism,” Ms. Yellen said. “It’s an extremely inefficient way of conduction transactions and the amount of energy that’s consumed in processing those transactions is staggering.”
A so-called digital dollar, maintained by the Federal Reserve and based on a blockchain, “could result in faster, safer and cheaper payments,” she said. At the same time, there are financial stability concerns and the Fed may not be prepared to deal with retail customers.
“I find it exciting that so many American companies are recognizing that climate change is really something we have to deal with in the coming decades,” Ms. Yellen said.
It’s the first day of the DealBook DC Policy Project, in which top policymakers and business leaders gather to debate the priorities for moving the country — and the world — forward. Today, speakers consider the shape of the economic recovery, how to hold power to account, the future of travel and where to focus stimulus funds. Register here to attend, free of charge from anywhere in the world.
Today’s lineup (all times Eastern):
9 a.m. – 9:25 a.m.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the road to recovery
On top of the $1.9 trillion economic aid plan that is working its way through Congress, the White House is raising the prospect of another big spending package focused on infrastructure. Although the economy is recovering faster than expected, it remains fragile and uneven. Navigating this path is Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair who took over as Treasury secretary last month.
2:30 P.m. – 3 P.m.
Attorney General Letitia James of New York on the power of accountability
Letitia James has more prominent cases and investigations on her plate today than most lawyers will manage in a lifetime. The way she uses her power — from suing Amazon over worker safety to uncovering the underreporting of nursing home deaths, investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s business dealings and many other actions — also highlights how states can shape national policy.
3:30 P.m. – 4 P.m.
Ed Bastian of Delta on the future of travel
Last year was “the toughest year in Delta’s history,” according to Ed Bastian, the airline’s chief executive. The carrier reported a loss of more than $12 billion as travel ground to a halt during the pandemic. In addition to feeling the pandemic’s economic effects, the airline industry is at the center of health policy debates, like whether to make masks mandatory and require coronavirus tests before travel.
4 P.m. – 4:30 P.m.
Steve Ballmer of USAFacts on stimulus by the numbers
Since stepping down as Microsoft’s chief executive in 2014, Steve Ballmer has kept busy as an National Basketball Association team owner and founder of USAFacts, a nonprofit group dedicated to presenting data about the United States in easy-to-read formats. The group aims, in his words, to “figure out what the government really does” with taxpayers’ money, and highlight the areas where spending may have the greatest effect.