Biden Treasury nominee Yellen says corporate tax cuts benefited 'competitiveness' of U.S. businesses

Janet Yellen is a former chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.

Updated: January 19, 2021 - 6:46pm

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President-elect Joe Biden's Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen indicated on Tuesday that corporate tax cuts have benefitted the "competitiveness" of U.S. companies.

“Although the corporate tax cuts, I think, did improve the competitiveness of American businesses and President-elect Biden is not proposing to raise the corporate tax to the level before that act, it’s very important that corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share,” Yellen said to the Senate Finance Committee, according to the Washington Times.

Yellen also told the committee that she considers trade with China critical to the U.S. economy but intends to continue to hold the country accountable for its stealing of intellectual property, and its weak standards for labor and environmental practice in its production capacity. 

"China is clearly our most important strategic competitor," she told members of the Senate Finance Committee in opening remarks.

Yellen also suggested that U.S. must work with its global and regional allies to compel China to change parts of its abusive system. 

If confirmed, Yellen said a top priority will be to push for a significant stimulus package to help Americans struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Yellen said that she believes now is not the time to worry about the nation's mounting debt.

"Economists don't always agree, but I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later," said the seasoned economist.

She also said the pandemic has "been particularly brutal in its impact on minorities and on women," and that they should be among those who receive immediate relief.

Some Republicans pushed Yellen on the subject of continued excessive government spending. Senator John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, lamented that neither of the previous two administrations appear to have thought very carefully about the long-term impact of increasing government spending.

"Pretty soon, the interest on the debt will exceed what we spend on national security," said Thune. "We have structural problems that are long term, that are going to continue to drive that debt higher in the future," he continued, asking Yellen what her thoughts are "with respect to reforming entitlements, with respect to the debt situation that we find ourselves in right now ... It was something that used to occupy a lot of our discussions in the past, but nobody seems to care much about it."

"I agree with you that it's essential that we put the federal budget on a path that's sustainable," responded Yellen. "But, the most important thing, in my view, that we can do today to put us on a path to fiscal sustainability is to defeat the pandemic. To provide relief to American people, and then to make long-term investments that will help the economy grow and benefit future generations," again emphasizing her opinion that the government's top fiscal priority must be responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

In 2014, Yellen, 74, was confirmed as the Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve by a Senate vote of 56 to 26 -- if confirmed, she will become the first female Treasury secretary in American history. Senate Finance committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) has spoken favorably about Yellen since she was nominated by Biden.

Widespread bipartisan support for Yellen was apparent during Tuesday's hearing as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he hoped to confirm Yellen by Thursday, just one day after President-elect Biden's inauguration. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Ida.) agreed, saying that he and other GOP Senators would "work expeditiously" to confirm the secretary-designate. 

The hearing, which took place remotely in large part, was devoid of the often fiery exchanges that were so characteristic of the hearings for appointments of President Trump.