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In early 2009, faced with an economic crisis and a host of jobs to fill, Barack Obama, the newly inaugurated president, went hunting for talent. For the role of the Treasury department’s top diplomat he chose a capable economist named Lael Brainard, who had also worked in Bill Clinton’s administration. Ms Brainard later moved from the Treasury’s stately headquarters next to the White House to the Federal Reserve, where she has been on its Board of Governors since 2014. Should Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump on November 3rd, she may well make a return journey, this time to occupy the grander office of the treasury secretary.

If Mr Biden wins his choice of team will be watched closely for clues as to how he might govern. His party’s left wing remains sceptical of his commitment to the sort of progressive reforms championed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, his challengers during the primaries. Conservatives and business leaders, on the other hand, are bracing themselves for higher taxes and stiffer regulations. Ms Brainard’s appointment to the Treasury could help neutralise the worst fears of each.

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