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Biden Considers Spelman Alumnus Lisa Cook For Federal Reserve Seat: Where Does She Stand On Reparations?

Biden Considers Spelman Alumnus Lisa Cook For Federal Reserve Seat: Where Does She Stand On Reparations?

reparations
Biden Considers Spelman Alumnus Lisa Cook For Federal Reserve Seat: Where Does She Stand On Reparations? Photo: President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Dec 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)/Photo: https://lisadcook.net/

Lisa Cook, an economist at Michigan State University, could become the first Black woman to join the Federal Reserve Board if President Joe Biden nominates her to fill an open seat, according to administration insiders.

Biden has tapped Cook on the “landing team” for the Federal Reserve and banking and securities regulator. One of the few African-American female economists, Cook was a member of Biden’s transition team. She’s an authority on international economics, especially Russian economics and advised policymakers for the Obama administration as well as for the Nigerian and Rwandan governments. Cook works as a professor of economics and international relations at Michigan State University and she’s a member of the American Economic Association’s executive committee.

Judging from Cook’s academic writing, she is a dove, meaning she’s less concerned about inflation and more focused on improving labor market conditions, Axios reported.

Many of her writings have focused on the effects of racial bias and how “discrimination inflicts a staggering cost on the entire economy.”

Recently, her research has addressed inequality in invention and innovation, focusing on race and gender differences in patenting rates, for example, The Federal Reserve of Minneapolis reported.


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According to Cook, racism has held back the U.S. economy for generations.

Cook has done extensive research on how lynching and race riots affected patenting and innovation.

“It’s not just universities who bought and sold enslaved people. It is institutions, its banks, insurance companies that underwrote the ships. There is so much complicity,” Cook said during a September 2020 podcast interview on EconTalk hosted by Russ Roberts.

Lisa Cook on reparations

“We absolutely need some sort of reckoning with that,” Cook continued. “There are many proposals on the table to study the possibility of reparations, many economic proposals being put forward, and I think they should all be taken seriously.”

Black people, Cook said, have been cut out of innovation.

“The African American homeowners couldn’t get mortgages, even though mortgages were fairly rare before the 1930s. But, even still, that would help with financing innovation, and African Americans didn’t have access to that,” she told EconTalk. When fixing the racial gap in the innovation economy, “we need to make sure that African Americans are showing up, and women are showing up, where they may not have been welcomed before … there need to be more and more participation on patent teams. Patenting by women is one order of magnitude lower than it is for men in the patent dataset. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Cook has also called for a focus on closing the wealth gap. While Cook seems to be an admirer of reparations advocate and economist Dr. Sandy Darity, it is unclear where she stands on reparations. 

When asked by Yahoo Finance’s “On The Move” panel about reparations, Cook seemed to skirt the issue. 

“You know that’s that’s a really good question and it’s a big question and because I have seen so many proposals over the decades,” she answered. “Let me be clear, I haven’t just seen one recently, I’ve seen them over the decades. We’d have to address a specific one for me to have an opinion on it because as a macroeconomist I need more of the details, more of the moving pieces…”

You can hear how Cook responded to a question about reparations at the 5:30-minute mark of this YouTube video.

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On Twitter, Cook congratulated Darity and Kirsten Mullen for their book on reparations, “From Here To Equality,” which received an award from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH ).

To promote an article she wrote in the New York Times, “Racism Impoverishes the Whole Economy,” Cook tweeted, “How can we produce economic gains that raise living standards for everyone? In my first column for the @nytimes, I provide evidence that eliminating racism could make us all better off. Racism Impoverishes the Whole Economy.”

Cook received a B.A. in physics and philosophy (magna cum laude) from Spelman College in 1986. She was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar. She went on to St. Hilda’s College, Oxford, as Spelman’s first Marshall Scholar. At St. Hilda’s, she earned another B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics in 1988. 

Professionally, Cook was a faculty member at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Harvard Business School from 1997 to 2002. She also spent a year as a senior adviser on finance and development at the U.S. Treasury Department as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow from 2000 to 2001.