It took a Black woman’s vote to secure the appointment of the first Black woman to serve on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors in its 108-year history.
Lisa Cook, who holds a doctorate in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been a professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State since 2005, won Senate approval by a 51-50 vote.
Vice President Kamala Harris cast the decisive vote.
Senate Republicans argued that she is unqualified for the position, saying she doesn’t have sufficient experience with interest rate policy and that she isn’t sufficiently committed to fighting inflation.
What really is drawing the GOP’s ire is her research on how hate-related violence has harmed U.S. economic growth.
In a 2020 commentary in The New York Times, Cook wrote “discrimination inflicts a staggering cost on the entire economy,” citing research that showed the far-reaching economic costs of racism.
She analyzed patent records and found that riots, lynching, and Jim Crow laws that targeted African American communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s hurt Black people’s ability to pursue inventions and discoveries.
“If there is something that impedes the rate of arrival of ideas, you’re going to slow down the economy,” Cook told the “Planet Money” podcast in 2020.
“It’s not just for that period. And it’s not just for Black people. This is a cautionary tale for all economies.”
Cook was also a staff economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisers from 2011 to 2012 and was an adviser to President Joe Biden’s transition team on the Fed and bank regulatory policy.
Republicans warned that Biden had made a partisan nomination, and that he would now try to control the Fed.
“I will never interfere with the Fed,” Biden said following the vote.
“The Fed should do its job and will do its job, I’m convinced.”
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., described Cook as “eminently qualified for the position” shortly before the vote.
“She’s a great Georgian. She comes from a family chock-full of achievers and she’s going to do a great job,” he told NBC News.
The Fed Board needs governors who understand how the economy works for Americans across race, gender, and class. Dr. Cook’s deep expertise makes her exceptionally qualified to serve,” Michele Holder, president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, wrote in a statement.
Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown told CNN “[Cook] will bring a critical voice to the Fed — one that has been missing for far too long.”
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