When President Biden announced Janet Yellen as his choice for secretary of the treasury, it was the peak moment of a remarkable life. Not only the first woman in the more than two-century history of the office, Yellen is the first person to hold all three top economic policy jobs in the United States: chair of both the Federal Reserve and the President's Council of Economic Advisors as well as treasury secretary.
Through Owen Ullmann's intimate portrait, we glean two remarkable aspects of Yellen's approach to economics: first, her commitment to putting those on the bottom half of the economic ladder at the center of economic policy, and employing forward-looking ideas to use the power of government to create a more prosperous, productive life for everyone. And second, her ability to maintain humanity in a Washington policy world where fierce political combat casts others as either friend or enemy, never more so than in our current age of polarization.
As Ullmann takes us through Yellen's life and work, we clearly see her brilliance and meticulous preparation. What stands out, though, is Yellen as an icon of progress-the "Ruth Bader Ginsburg of economics"-a superb-yet-different kind of player in a cold, male-dominated profession that all too often devises policies to benefit the already well-to-do. With humility and compassion as her trademarks, we see the influence of Yellen's father, a physician whose pay-what-you-can philosophy meant never turning anyone away. That compassion, rooted in her family life in Brooklyn, now extends across our entire country.