Top Biden economist Brian Deese departs as Zients takes reins

WASHINGTON — Top White House economist Brian Deese is stepping down from his position after two years in one of the biggest staffing shuffles so far in President Biden’s West Wing.

The 44-year-old Deese’s exit as director of the National Economic Council was announced hours after new White House chief of staff Jeff Zients assumed power at a Wednesday night transition ceremony with outgoing chief Ron Klain — who, like Deese, joined the administration in January 2021.

It’s unclear who will replace Deese, who was a relatively young member of Biden’s senior White House cadre, which is comprised heavily of longtime aides who amassed wealth in private-sector jobs between government stints.

Deese, an Obama administration alum, worked as the investment giant BlackRock’s global head of sustainable investing for more than three years before joining the Biden White House. It’s unclear if he has arranged future employment.

Zients, Biden’s top lieutenant, formerly held Deese’s job from 2014 to 2017 and may have a special interest in picking the replacement.

Although the post pays just $180,000 — hardly enough for a first-class life in pricey DC — it’s a sought-after resume line. Zients, who is believed to be Biden’s wealthiest aide with a personal fortune that disclosure forms put between $89.3 million and $442.8 million, served on Facebook’s board and held other well-paying positions after leaving the job.

Brian Deese is an original member of President Biden’s White House staff.

Deese’s job involved advising Biden, liaising with Congress and providing positive spin on economic news for the media — but he brought a low-key demeanor to the role in contrast with former President Donald Trump’s two economic directors, Gary Cohn and Larry Kudlow, who were regarded as power players often at the center of fierce internal debates.

Biden hailed Deese in a statement for helping navigate economic issues without directly noting that the US continues to experience the highest sustained inflation in four decades, which his advisers initially insisted was just “transitory.”

“He has helped steer my economic vision into reality, and managed the transition of our historic economic recovery to steady and stable growth,” Biden said.

Jeff Zients
New White House chief of staff Jeff Zients assumed power at a Wednesday night transition ceremony.
Getty Images

“Brian’s work was critical to the passage of the most significant economic agenda in generations: the American Rescue Plan, which brought our economy back from the brink; the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the most significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure in generations; the CHIPs and Science Act, which ensures we make more high-end technology here at home so we can outcompete the world; and the Inflation Reduction Act, which is giving millions of families breathing room, investing in clean energy manufacturing, and addressing the climate crisis.”

Biden added, “I am grateful to his wife Kara and his children Adeline and Clark for letting us borrow Brian. I know well what it must have been like to say goodbye to him for the regular long commute to Washington, and I know they’re excited to welcome him home.”


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