Janet L. Yellen, President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s nominee to be Treasury secretary, said at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday that investing in vaccine distribution and expanded jobless benefits will provide the biggest “bang” for the economy in a future stimulus package to help Americans get through the current “dark” economic time.
Speaking before the Senate Finance Committee, Ms. Yellen said that her core focus will be on helping struggling workers find good jobs and receive better wages, and she laid out the impact that the pandemic has had on the economy.
“It’s been particularly brutal in its impact on minorities and on women,” Ms. Yellen said.
The Treasury nominee said that additional stimulus measures should be focused on those who have been hardest hit and that expanding unemployment insurance and food stamps benefits would be a critical way to do this. The most pressing priority, however, is spending to ensure that the vaccine is quickly and widely distributed so that the pandemic can be ended and normal economic activity can resume, she said.
With Democrats set to take control of the Senate, the hearing lacked some of the contentiousness that was on display when Trump administration nominees sat for confirmation hearings.
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the finance committee, said that “nobody could be better qualified for this job” than Ms. Yellen.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the current Republican chairman of the committee, pressed Ms. Yellen to ensure that the Biden administration does not raise taxes on the middle class and small businesses. He also urged her to cooperate transparently with Congressional oversight. However, he offered no critique about her qualifications for the job.
Yet areas of tension do exist, including the Biden administration’s plans to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations and to increase spending to combat the pandemic.
Republican senators, including Mr. Grassley, asked Ms. Yellen to commit to not raising taxes on small businesses and also questioned whether she was going to roll back the 2017 tax package that President Trump pushed through without any Democratic support.
Ms. Yellen said that Mr. Biden does not plan to repeal the entire 2017 tax law, but that after the pandemic is over he will look to reverse provisions in the law that benefit the rich and big corporations.
Ms. Yellen demurred when asked whether she would oppose any effort to repeal a cap that lawmakers placed on state and local tax deductions as part of the 2017 tax overhaul. That limit has primarily hurt higher earners in high-tax, largely blue states and many Democrats have pushed to lift the cap.
Ms. Yellen said she believes “in a fair and progressive tax code where wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share” but that she would want to “study and evaluate what the impact has been on state and local governments” before making a decision.
Republicans also pressed Ms. Yellen on the federal deficit, which ballooned under Mr. Trump’s watch as he pushed through tax cuts and higher government spending even before the pandemic hit.
Ms. Yellen agreed that the “long-term fiscal trajectory is a cause for concern” but said the economy will suffer severe damage without more financial help during the pandemic.
“To avoid doing what we need to do now to address the pandemic and the economic damage that it’s causing would likely leave us in a worse place economically and with respect to our debt situation than doing what’s necessary,” she said.
Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s said they were dropping products from MyPillow amid a backlash to comments made by Mike Lindell, the bedding company’s chief executive, who has been promoting debunked conspiracy theories involving the election on social media.
Mr. Lindell said that Kohl’s and Bed Bath & Beyond acted after people on social media started pressuring them, according to an interview posted Monday on a pro-Trump site called Right Side Broadcasting Network. Mr. Lindell, who said that he had spoken with Bed Bath & Beyond minutes before the interview, claimed without citing evidence that the criticism was coming from fake accounts.
Bed Bath & Beyond said on Tuesday that its decision was rooted in MyPillow’s performance. “We have been rationalizing our assortment to discontinue a number of underperforming items and brands,” a representative said in a statement. A spokeswoman for Kohl’s said that “there has been decreased customer demand for MyPillow,” and that the chain did not plan to buy future inventory after clearing out its supply.
Mr. Lindell, whose company is a major advertiser on Fox News, has become a prominent supporter of President Trump. He drew a wave of attention last week after a photograph of partially visible notes he was carrying into the White House showed a mention of the Insurrection Act. MyPillow also offered a “FightforTrump” discount code on the day of the Capitol riots. On social media, groups like Sleeping Giants, which was created to choke off advertising dollars to Breitbart News, have been asking vendors about their support for MyPillow products.
Mr. Lindell railed against Sleeping Giants in the interview.
“These guys don’t understand, they’re scared,” Mr. Lindell said of Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s. “They were good partners. In fact, I told them, you guys come back any time you want.”
The average price for a one-way domestic flight dropped to $135 last summer, its lowest level in at least two decades, according to an analysis of new federal data by Cirium, an aviation data firm.
Normally, personal travel picks up during the summer and drops in the fall. That decline is usually offset by corporate travel, but with few people boarding planes and businesses having paused most employee travel during the pandemic, airlines cut fares to fill the reduced number of seats they were still selling.
“Summer was their last best chance to generate revenue,” said Jon Jager, a Cirium analyst.
The firm came up with its estimates by analyzing Transportation Department data on airfares from July to September, which was released on Tuesday. The $135 average price for a one-way ticket last summer included taxes and fees and is the lowest quarterly average airfare, before adjusting for inflation, since at least 2000, according to Cirium. The price also represents a 32 percent decline from the $198 average in summer 2019.
Airline travel has recovered somewhat since falling more than 95 percent in April, but it remains subdued. On Monday, just over 875,000 people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration, compared with nearly 2.3 million on the same day last year. Over the past week, the agency has screened only about 37 percent as many passengers as it did a year ago.
The fare data also varies substantially by airline. At Delta Air Lines, the gross fare for a one-way ticket from New York to Los Angeles declined 21 percent, to $298, from the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2020, for example. Fares on the same route over the same period fell 32 percent at United Airlines and 46 percent at American Airlines.
Over all, Delta’s airfares dropped 20 percent from the first quarter of 2020 to the third quarter, while prices dropped 26 percent for Southwest Airlines, 27 percent for United and 31 percent for American.
Republicans foreshadowed their opposition to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s economic plans on Tuesday, pressing Janet L. Yellen, his nominee for Treasury secretary, to defend a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal that would provide more direct payments to individuals, expanded jobless benefits and money for states and cities.
The opposition from Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee during Ms. Yellen’s confirmation hearing underscored the challenge that the incoming Biden administration will face in trying to push its proposal through Congress given the narrow control it has in the Senate and House.
“We’re looking at another spending blowout,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania. “The only organizing principle I can understand, it seems, is to spend as much money as possible, seemingly for the sake of spending it.”
Mr. Toomey took issue with Mr. Biden’s plans to send more money to states and cities, a measure that Republicans have opposed for the last year and that was dropped from the last round of stimulus talks in order to win passage of the $900 billion aid package. He also expressed concern about Mr. Biden’s proposed tax increases and his call for raising the minimum wage to $15.
Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, seized on Mr. Biden’s call to raise the minimum wage from $7.25, arguing to Ms. Yellen that doing so would hurt small businesses while they are vulnerable and would lead to more job losses.
Other Republicans complained that the Biden economic plan is fiscally irresponsible given the nation’s growing debt load and the federal budget deficit, which topped $3 trillion last year. Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said that Mr. Biden’s plan is not sufficiently targeted and that giving an additional $1,400 in direct payments to some people who have not lost jobs is not an efficient use of federal resources.
Ms. Yellen rebutted their arguments point by point, making the case that doing too little to stimulate the economy would be more costly in the long run. She said that economic research have shown minimal job losses from raising the minimum wage, pointing to studies of neighboring states when one imposes an increase and the other does not.
She also argued that jobless benefits, which under Mr. Biden’s plan would be supplemented with an extra $400 per week, are not sufficient to address the financial struggles facing families and that the $1,400 stimulus checks are important in situations where one person, generally a woman, has left a job to care for children who are out of school.
“There are many families that are bearing exceptional financial burdens that are not addressed by unemployment compensation,” she said.
Ms. Yellen did offer some assurances to Republicans who are fearful that Democrats will repeal the entire 2017 tax law, which slashed taxes for individuals and corporations. She said that while Mr. Biden does want to make changes to the law, including raising the corporate tax rate, such actions are not an immediate priority.
“The focus right now is on providing relief and on helping families keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, and not on raising taxes,” she said.
Ms. Yellen took a hard line on China at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, warning that she would use a “full array” of tools to combat what she described as abusive economic practices.
“China is clearly our most important strategic competitor,” Ms. Yellen said, suggesting that the Biden administration would take a skeptical view of the world’s second-largest economy.
Ms. Yellen accused China of dumping products, stealing intellectual property, providing illegal subsidies to its companies and having weak labor and environmental standards. She said that the United States needs to work with its allies to compel China to curb such abuses.
The Biden administration is inheriting a tense relationship with China, which frayed during President Trump’s trade war and then again amid the pandemic, with the United States accusing China of not doing enough to prevent the virus from leaving its borders.
One of the biggest decisions facing the Biden administration and Ms. Yellen is whether to keep Mr. Trump’s tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese imports, which have raised costs for many American companies. Ms. Yellen was not asked whether she would prefer to keep those in place or not.
But her sharp words come nearly one year after the Trump administration signed the first phase of a trade deal between the two countries, suggesting that she does not believe the agreement succeeded in dealing with the most critical structural problems in the economic relationship between the two countries.
Ms. Yellen is expected to take a somewhat different approach from the Trump administration, including working with allies to combat China and investing in America’s economy to help the nation better compete with China.
Ms. Yellen suggested the United States should invest heavily in infrastructure and adopt economic policies that address climate change, which she described as, “one of the most critical questions facing the economy and the world.”
Investing in clean technology, renewable energy and providing incentives for electric cars would be priorities for protecting the environment and creating jobs, Ms. Yellen said.
Janet L. Yellen won the endorsement on Tuesday of eight former Treasury secretaries, who called for her speedy Senate confirmation so that she can assume the job under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The letter of support was released shortly ahead of Ms. Yellen’s testimony at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. The group said that any delay would pose an unnecessary risk to the economy at a critical time.
“With millions of Americans out of work, long-term unemployment rising, and activity stalled in large sectors of the economy, daunting challenges will face the incoming administration. Addressing these pressing issues will require thoughtful engagement by the Department of the Treasury,” they wrote. “Any gap in its leadership would risk setting back recovery efforts.”
They added that a delay in confirming Ms. Yellen would also sow confusion among American allies, who traditionally rely on the United States for global economic leadership in times of crisis.
The letter was signed by George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Robert E. Rubin, Lawrence H. Summers, John W. Snow, Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Timothy F. Geithner and Jacob J. Lew. That all-male crew reflects the significance of Ms. Yellen’s nomination — if confirmed, she would be the first woman to lead the Treasury in its 231-year history.
The former secretaries said that Ms. Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, was uniquely qualified for the job because of her experience and knowledge.
Ms. Yellen is expected to have a smooth path to confirmation. An acting Treasury secretary is expected to fill the void at the Department between when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin departs on Wednesday at noon and when Ms. Yellen is confirmed.
By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet
Stocks climbed on Tuesday, with Wall Street rebounding from a small decline last week, as Janet Yellen, the incoming Biden administration’s pick for Treasury secretary, promoted a vigorous fiscal response to the pandemic at a Senate hearing.
The S&P 500 rose more about 1 percent, following mixed trading in Europe and a rally in Asia.
Ms. Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, told senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday morning that the United States needed a robust fiscal stimulus package.
Oil prices rose. Futures of Brent, Europe’s benchmark, rose 2 percent to $55.88 a barrel. Futures of West Texas Intermediate rose to $52.93 a barrel. The International Energy Agency cut its estimates for oil demand for 2021 because of lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But oil prices have recovered in recent months after Saudi Arabia and some other nations cut production.
The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Joseph Simons, said on Tuesday that he would leave the post on Jan. 29 after a tenure during which the agency brought multiple major enforcement actions against Facebook.
Mr. Simons, a Republican whom President Trump picked to lead the agency, became the agency’s leader in the middle of a data privacy investigation into Facebook. The case resulted in a record $5 billion fine for the social media giant. Late last year, he sided with the two Democrats in the five-member agency in to sue Facebook for antitrust violations.
Mr. Simons leaves as the agency continues investigations of Big Tech, including an antitrust investigation of Amazon.
“As technology and our economy continue to evolve through the digital age, the F.T.C.’s staff work tirelessly so that consumers continue to benefit from a fair and competitive marketplace,” Mr. Simons said in a statement. “It’s been a privilege to be part of that effort.”
In addition to replacing Mr. Simons at the agency, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will also need to fill the spot held by Rohit Chopra, a Democratic commissioner. Mr. Biden’s transition team has announced plans to nominate Mr. Chopra as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot that created Stellantis, the world’s fourth largest automaker, will protect jobs rather than threaten them, Carlos Tavares, the new company’s chief executive, said as shares of the new company rose sharply on their first day of trading in New York.
Mr. Tavares insisted that the merger is a “shield” for Stellantis’s 400,000 employees rather than a risk, allowing Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot to share the enormous cost of developing new technologies for electric vehicles and autonomous driving.
He repeated a promise not to close any factories as a result of the merger, which shareholders approved earlier this month. But Mr. Tavares did not rule out shutdowns in places like Brazil or Britain if regulations — for example the British government’s plan to ban the sale of new gasoline or diesel cars by 2030 — “lead to a situation where there is no business model.”
“Then the consequences are clear for everybody,” Mr. Tavares told reporters during a conference call. Union officials in Britain have expressed concern about the fate of a factory in Ellesmere Port that produces midsize cars for the Vauxhall and Opel, two of the company’s brands.
Over all, Stellantis has 14 brands including Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroën, Alfa-Romeo, Maserati and Ram Trucks. Some analysts have questioned whether so many brands are manageable, but Mr. Tavares said there were no plans to cull them.
The new company is also looking for ways re-enter the Chinese market after Peugeot failed to make a dent there, Mr. Tavares said. China has become the world’s largest car market by far and no major carmaker can afford to ignore it.
Based on vehicle sales during the first nine months of 2020, Stellantis trails Toyota, Volkswagen and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance. It has headquarters in the Netherlands with large production facilities in France, Italy and the United States.
In Mr. Tavares’s telling, the financial might of the new company will allow it to introduce new models and pursue opportunities that would not have been possible before the merger, providing work for underused factories in places like Italy. Labor costs are a relatively small factor, he said.
“There are many more things to do than just cutting jobs,” he said.
Stellantis shares were up 11 percent on their first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
As Washington girds itself for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration on Wednesday, lawmakers have asked transportation and hospitality companies for help “identifying and preventing the ongoing and extreme threat of further violent attacks.” Here’s how companies are responding:
Airlines: American, Delta, Southwest and United have imposed bans on firearms in checked luggage on flights to the Washington area. American has also suspended alcohol service, and Alaska Air has limited the number of tickets available for flights to and from Washington.
Hotels and hospitality: Airbnb has canceled reservations in Washington for this week. Expedia’s Vrbo is blocking bookings through Friday, and it rolled out new procedures on Monday that include screening guests against federal threat lists. A spokesman for Hyatt said the chain had increased security personnel and was limiting hotel access to registered guests. The InterContinental Hotels Group is hiring extra security for its company-owned hotels and recommending that its franchised hotels do the same, a spokesman said. A representative for Hilton declined to discuss security measures but said it was “well-informed and mindful of current events.”
Other travel companies: To “avoid any disruptions” in Washington, the bus operator Vamoose canceled service Tuesday through Thursday. Megabus said last week that it would suspend service until Thursday. And the electric scooter companies Lime, Lyft, Spin and Helbiz are disabling service downtown.
The U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency on Tuesday extended its moratorium on foreclosures and and evictions related to a foreclosure to the end of February, from the end of January. The extension should buy more time for the incoming Biden administration, which has indicated it wants to extend both the moratorium on foreclosures and rental evictions by several months — or at least until the pandemic begins to subside.