Biden Administration

Neera Tanden, Biden's Pick for Budget Office: Now Is Not the Time To 'Worry About Raising Deficits and Debt'

She once suggested that if Americans care about the deficit so much, maybe we should make Libya pay for it.


President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former advisor to Hillary Clinton, to head the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. The position requires Senate confirmation, which might be a long shot, given Tanden's long history of feuding with not just Republicans but also fellow Democrats.

If Tanden does take control of the OMB, then the office will be run by someone who has recently said that deficits and the debt should be no obstacle whatsoever to further government spending. At the start of the pandemic, she co-authored a commentary piece titled, "Deficit and Debt Shouldn't Factor Into Coronavirus Recession Response."

"Deficits and debt pose no comparable risk," wrote Tanden. "Policymakers should set aside their concerns about red ink and deliver the response the crisis demands."

Tanden has said that the purpose of the budget is to "expand opportunity for all Americans" and that excessive fretting about deficits hinders economic growth.

To the extent Tanden has expressed any concern for the debt at all, it was mostly tactical: She has previously worried that spending wildly without paying for it makes the government unpopular with voters. In 2011, she came up with a novel solution to this problem, suggesting in an email to other CAP staffers that "oil rich countries" in the Middle East should pay the U.S. back in exchange for our military presence. She was specifically thinking of Libya, which was in the middle of a civil war at the time, with the U.S. and NATO offering support to the rebel factions. Indeed, Tanden sent this email—which was later leaked to her critics, including Glenn Greenwald—just a day after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was brutally killed by rebels.

"We have a giant deficit," wrote Tanden. "They have a lot of oil. Most Americans would choose not to engage in the world because of that deficit. If we want to continue to engage in the world, gestures like having oil rich countries partially pay us back doesn't seem crazy to me."

In context, "engage in the world" meant U.S. military intervention. This did not turn out so well in Libya, which descended into chaos following the killing of Gadhafi and became a haven for terrorists. A second civil war only recently ended. It is doubtful the Libyans feel so grateful that they would like to help relieve the U.S. budget deficit.

Director of the OMB is a very powerful position, given the agency's important function as an overseer of not just the president's budget priorities but also various regulatory policies, intergovernmental coordination, and compliance. Even aside from ideological concerns, there is plenty of reason to wonder about Tanden's fitness for the position. In addition to her distressing lack of concern for the deficit and hawkish foreign policy views, Tanden also has a worrying history of personnel clashes. She was accused of becoming physically aggressive toward a CAP staffer who had dared to question Hillary Clinton about the Iraq War, and she once outed an employee who had filed a sexual harassment complaint. These issues speak to her competency as the leader of an organization.

"Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden," wrote Briahna Joy Gray, former press secretary for the 2020 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.).

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  1. “‘At the start of the pandemic, she co-authored a commentary piece titled, “Deficit and Debt Shouldn’t Factor Into Coronavirus Recession Res’ponse.”‘

    Hey, gotta spend that $11 trillion somehow. Best to get started immediately.

    1. Remember back when the Democrats were *opposed* to imperialism and wars for oil?

      Man, the halcyon days of the second Bush administration. Talk about a phrase I never thought I’d utter.

      1. The neocon warned us to privatize Social Security too.

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        2. Don’t I wish although they would be my 2nd option to actually being able to opt out and have no government involved in my retirement.

  2. Meh when have people truly cared about deficits anyway. We got a brief respite in the late 90s and that’s it. Nobody gives a shit anymore and nothing will be done so let it crash and pick up the pieces.

  3. Why does this office even exist? Seems pointless.

    1. I wouldn’t mind heading the office of “occasionally show up, do nothing, get paid”.

    2. The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

      1. Soon to head up the department of redundancy department.

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      2. Sadly Trump’s platform plank of draining the swamp didn’t pan out to decrease the population of cretinous bottom-feeding bureaucratic permanent government apparatchiks.

        1. There is a never ending supply.

          They were front and center at Trump’s impeachment hearings.

  4. In 2011, she came up with a novel solution to this problem, suggesting in an email to other CAP staffers that “oil rich countries” in the Middle East should pay the U.S. back in exchange for our military presence.

    But when the Republican president that defeated the white witch in 2016 suggested the same thing…

    1. Something borrowed, something blue. Biden’s next policy structure.

    2. sounds too Trumpian — make Europe pay for their own defense? How’d she get past the Biden screeners?

  5. Most Americans would choose not to engage in the world because of that deficit.

    I would have figured that it’s because most of those conflicts are none of our damn business.

  6. President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former advisor to Hillary Clinton, to head the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

    You would do a great deal of furthering the cause of civics if you stopped referring to Joe Biden incorrectly. He is not President Elect.

    But more to the point, one of two old men is going to be our next President: Donald Trump or Not Donald Trump. The contributors to this magazine made it abundently clear whom they preferred. This is what Not Donald Trump, when not mistaking himself for Neil Kinnock, thinks will serve the Constitution and his oath of office. I’d be looking at Bitcoin more today.

    1. One man is going to be our next president. That man is Joe Biden. If you are too dumb to recognize this point, leave the public debates to your betters.

      You can watch as much as you want, though, and complain about your fate in the culture war as much as you want, too!

      Carry on, clinger.

      1. An old white rich man.

        Is that what winning the culture war looks like?

        Carry on indeed.

  7. I for one am glad to see the end of Orange Man Profligate Spending.



    1. You think Trump was bad on spending?

      Joe Biden: Hold my Geritol.

  8. Tanden sounds very Trumpy.


  9. Anybody from the Center for American Progress is going to be troublesome.

  10. No matter how bad the Republican is the Democrat will always spend much, much, more. Except Bill Clinton and his Republican congress. Embrace the cargo cult and bring them back, watch the deficit turn into a surplus.

    1. As long as we can bring back the 2 trillion dollar annual spending. (Instead of 5 or 8 or 16 or whatever Harris has planned for us.)

      1. Even $3 trillion.

  11. Au contraire- now it DEFINITELY is the time to worry. You see- Republicans wouldn’t ever give a shit while they have power but hey, now we got a Dem in there. Perfect time to act like they give a shit or ever did about the deficit/debt.

    1. 11 Trillion vs 500 Billion, totally the same. You got them conservatives good.

  12. What, me worry?

  13. Which part did she get wrong? “BOTH SIDES” were willing to throw unbudgeted TRILLIONS at the pandemic. The only disagreement was how much.

    Maybe if Ghadafi were paying us protection money, there wouldn’t be a civil war?

  14. Can’t worry about deficits now! Earth has 10 years left before the climate makes it an unlivable hellscape! COVID-19 has devastated state budgets and state employee pension plans! People are hurting what with all the small businesses forced to shut down, and need handouts!

  15. Read Greenwald’s takedown of her on his substack. It’s worth your time.

    1. It may be worth my time, but not worth my money.

  16. No Republican senator who ignored the vast incompetence and nepotism of the Trump administration has any right to say anything about anyone Biden nominates.

    1. Sometimes in my fever dreams I imagined a fantasy land where, with Trump spending money like it has an expiration date, democrats would become the party of fiscal responsibility.

      1. that sounds like a beautiful dream.

      2. They’ve always been the party of fiscal responsibility. Sometimes needlessly so.

        Watch what people do, not what they say they do.

        1. The democrat house has been the source of the spending under Trump. Does a 3.3T bill sound like fiscal responsibility?

          1. Is Trump not even to blame for his own fucking fingers signing things?

            And yes, it is fiscally responsible to save the economy from a depression during a pandemic, thank you for asking.

          2. Not fiscally responsible, however, was the obscene upward transfer of wealth that Republicans and Trump passed. But I bet you didn’t bitch about that, did you?

  17. With the COVID lockdowns, resulting in massive unemployment and staggering losses to small businesses, plus contested national elections, one might expect the economy to take a hit. But the DOW is at ~ 30k. This year we’ve proven that massively manipulating the stock market works and can’t possibly have any unintended consequences, right?

  18. From Dick Cheney’s ‘deficits don’t matter” to Tanden’s “now is no the time” when did any politician ever worry about debts and deficits? They will worry right after the economic meltdown.

    1. “”when did any politician ever worry about debts and deficits?””

      It’s only a problem with the other team is in power.

  19. I noticed a very liberal TV program criticizing Neera Tanden as being hostile to programs like Social Security. All this leaves me wondering if she might be a very good manager of OMB. We know she was critical of Republicans, but also of progressives like Bernie Sanders. She was a Hillary Clinton supporter and while some may dislike (maybe hate) Clinton she was a pretty moderate centrist candidate. She will support center left, may even far left, ideas but in a more evolutionary way as opposed to a revolutionary way.

    So I see no reason to give her a chance. Again criticize on her actions in office not before.

    1. Clinton did not espouse moderate or centrist policies. And it is perfectly reasonable to look at Tanden’s history of being a shitty partisan asshat, as much as this apparently escapes you.

    2. She lacks any basic understanding of economics or management. She is a partisan hack who believes politics is rewarding your “tribe” and gutting the other side. The media will fawn all over her until she is caught taking advantage a little too much in programs she runs. With these marxists is it never about creating wealth by allowing people to be free but to reallocate the pie….it is in their blood they have zero critical reasonings ability or understanding human actions…

      1. “She lacks any basic understanding of economics or management”

        Care to elaborate on this. I don’t think she be there if Joe Biden did not think she had the skills for the job.

  20. I don’t know what Robby’s problem is since people and positions like these are precisely the ones you would expect. Sorry Robby you and the rest of the left libertarians demanded a return to norms and you got it so stop bitching about the very norms you demanded.

    1. I prefer my norms to be beer swilling fictional characters on TV.

  21. She will not be confirmed.

    1. Is true.

  22. Article had me thinking one way then threw in the twist in the last paragraph. Anyone who draws the ire of a Bernie socialist can’t be all bad…..can she?

  23. I’m gonna give some leeway for context. the pandemic is a non-standard time period where deficit spending is not necessarily off the table…… it is average deficit over time that must be zero…. sometimes an emergency might require the credit card….. (yes, better situation would be to have an emergency fund already standing by, but we got a whole lot of work before we can get there.)

    but, there has been an underlying apathy about the debt and the deficit, from both sides, that is generally terrifying, and does not bode well for the future. GOP wants more tax cuts and military spending, dems want more massive spending programs….. and nobody seems to care about the elephant in the room. we had a massive deficit before the pandemic…. during a good economy…. and that should never have happened. there is no excuse for us to have not been paying down the debt when our economy was good, or for us to not plan to pay it down after the pandemic is over…. none… the longer we wait to address this, the more it is going to crush our way of life.

  24. As long as we can outsource our inflation to other countries we can print as much as we want…yes it has real implications…it destroys our industrial base and most of America except for wokie cosmo coasts elites…in terms of opportunity, real living standards and so on. And you will get more and more “govt” help (student loans, mortage backing, debt forgiveness and so on)..all while the solution is the problem. Once China doesn’t need the US anymore as a dumping ground…this whole insanity started by old Tricky Dick in 71 will come to an end…a very unhappy end.

  25. Government is reactive no proactive. The time to deal with deficits is after the s–t hits the fan and not a moment sooner.

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