Austerity-minded Jeff Zients’s appointment as White House chief of staff signals Joe Biden’s return to the fiscal hawkishness that has always been his sweet spot.

by Branko Marcetic, Jacobin

With the grand ambitions of Joe Biden’s first year or so dead and buried, the 2022 midterms seemed to serve as a chapter break ending the first, pseudo-Rooseveltian phase of his presidency. We can’t know exactly what the next phase is going to entail, but we may have just gotten a big clue.

Among the big news out of DC this week is that Biden is replacing outgoing chief of staff Ron Klain with Jeff Zients, millionaire and former COVID-19 czar. This has, for good reason, sparked outrage among progressives, who view Zients’s panoply of conflicts of interest, private equity past, and mishandling of the pandemic as disqualifying.

Jeff Zients speaks at a podium

Despite Klain’s questionable record, he won progressives over through what seemed like genuine efforts at outreach, making them feel — unusually, for a modern White House occupied by either party — that their ideas were being factored into policymaking. Zients would’ve struggled to fill his shoes no matter what. But his sketchy past has made that a particularly tall order, and possibly signals that Biden is ready to ditch the already tenuous progressive populist approach of his first two years.

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