Top policymakers and business leaders will assemble virtually next week for the DealBook DC Policy Project, to discuss the future of politics, the economy, markets and more. Register here to join us, from anywhere in the world, free of charge.
With a new administration in place in Washington, the real work — and debate — about policy priorities begins in earnest. We’ve assembled some of the most influential players in that conversation to join us as part of a two-day event, the DealBook DC Policy Project, that starts on Monday.
Between a health crisis and a related economic downturn, there are crucial policy questions about the way forward. And it’s not just about the stimulus needed to reboot the economy in the short term, but the policies necessary to create a sustainable and durable recovery. Everything from taxes to labor, trade, competition and markets is on the table.
This project began in December with a series of round-table conversations with experts about climate policy, U.S.-China relations, the future of capitalism and more. Starting on Monday, we’re going to drill down on specifics with a series of decision makers to understand how they think about the most pressing challenges we face. My hope is that there will be lessons to take away from the sessions that advance the national conversation and make us all think a bit more deeply about our role in creating solutions.
The agenda is below. I hope you can join us.
Monday, Feb. 22, 9 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the road to recovery
The path out of the pandemic is paved with debt. On top of the $1.9 trillion economic aid plan that is working its way through Congress, the White House is raising the prospect of another big spending package focused on infrastructure. Although the economy is recovering faster than expected, it remains fragile and uneven.
Navigating this path is Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair who took over as Treasury secretary last month. She faces pressure to reduce the deficit that ballooned during the worst of the pandemic downturn and to address fears that aggressive spending could stoke inflation as pent-up demand is unleashed. In addition to getting the economy back on its feet, Ms. Yellen’s to-do list includes reviewing the deregulation of Wall Street under former President Donald J. Trump, resetting U.S. trade relations and incorporating inclusivity, the climate and other priorities into policymaking in a more comprehensive way than has been attempted before.
Monday, Feb. 22, 2:30 P.m. – 3 P.m.
Attorney General Letitia James of New York on the power of accountability
Letitia James has more high-profile cases and investigations on her plate today than most lawyers will manage in a lifetime. The way she uses her power also highlights how states can shape national policy.
The New York state attorney general sued Amazon this week, accusing it of failing to protect warehouse workers amid the pandemic, undaunted by the company’s pre-emptive suit to block the charges. Her recent inquiry into nursing home deaths exposed the fact that New York had severely underreported the numbers. Her office is also taking on the New York Police Department over its handling of racial justice protests last year and is investigating fraud in Donald Trump’s business dealings in a civil suit that may become a criminal matter. She is suing the National Rifle Association and its leadership over claims of misconduct.
She is leading a coalition of state attorneys general taking on Facebook, accusing the tech giant of illegally crushing competition. And yesterday, she also joined with other A.G.s to urge Congress to cancel federal student loan debt in the name of consumer protection.
And that is just the short list.
When Ms. James was elected in 2018, she shattered a trio of racial and gender barriers: the first woman in New York to be elected attorney general, the first Black woman to be elected to statewide office and the first Black person to serve as attorney general.
Monday, Feb. 22, 3:30 P.m. – 4 P.m.
Ed Bastian of Delta on the future of travel
Last year was “the toughest year in Delta’s history,” according to Ed Bastian, the airline’s chief executive. The carrier reported a loss of more than $12 billion as travel ground to a halt during the pandemic. But unlike its rivals, Delta has been able to avoid mass furloughs, and it turned down a bailout loan, opting instead to raise money by tapping its loyalty program.
In addition to feeling the pandemic’s economic effects, the airline industry is at the center of health policy debates, like one over making masks mandatory, which airlines have welcomed, and another over requiring coronavirus tests before travel, which they have resisted for domestic flights.
The industry over all is shedding more than $150 million each day, and it won’t turn around meaningfully until high-margin business travel picks up. But some experts say corporate travel may never fully recover, with in-person meetings permanently replaced by video conferences.
“Leadership is not a popularity contest,” Mr. Bastian told our Corner Office columnist, in a wide-ranging interview about managing the company through booms and busts.
Monday, Feb. 22, 4 P.m. – 4:30 P.m.
Steve Ballmer of USAFacts on stimulus by the numbers
Since stepping down as Microsoft’s chief executive in 2014, Steve Ballmer has kept busy as the N.B.A.’s most energetic team owner. He has also founded USAFacts, a nonprofit group dedicated to presenting crucial data about the United States in easy-to-read formats.
The idea behind the group, whose projects include a yearly scorecard for the U.S. modeled on corporate annual reports, is to give Americans the important facts about their government that they need to make informed political decisions. Working with academics and other experts, Mr. Ballmer’s group aims, in his words, to “figure out what the government really does” with taxpayers’ money.
Where $3.4 trillion in economic relief — the equivalent of $10,300 for every American — has been spent over the past year.
Tuesday, Feb. 23, 12:30 P.m. – 1 P.m.
Karen Lynch of CVS Health on the vaccine rollout
Karen Lynch took over CVS Health this month as the pharmacy chain takes center stage in efforts to fight the pandemic. It is working with the government to distribute the coronavirus vaccine in its stores, as well as in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. To aid in those efforts, the company hired 15,000 employees at the end of last year.
President Biden has warned of “gigantic” logistical hurdles to the rollout. CVS, which could add $1 billion in profit over the next year from the program, also aims to reach underserved communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
The job market for pharmacists is booming as chains rush to staff up to handle demand for vaccinations.
Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2:30 P.m. – 3 P.m.
Vlad Tenev of Robinhood and Jay Clayton, former S.E.C. chairman, on the markets
Nothing captured Wall Street’s attention more in recent weeks than meme-stock mania, as the video game retailer GameStop and other unlikely companies briefly became the hottest things in the markets. At the center of the frenzy was the online brokerage Robinhood, which has attracted millions of users with commission-free trades but drew outrage among its users when it halted trading in GameStop and other stocks at the height of the mania.
Vlad Tenev, a Robinhood co-founder and its chief executive, has been thrust into the spotlight. He faced hours of hostile questioning at a congressional hearing on Thursday about Robinhood’s business practices, which brought attention to normally obscure things like payment for order flow, clearinghouse deposit requirements and the timing of trade settlements. Mr. Tenev has called for changes to some of those practices while defending others.
Joining him is Jay Clayton, the veteran Wall Street lawyer who led the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Trump administration. From the beginning of his tenure, Mr. Clayton said that his mission was protecting “the long-term interests of the Main Street investor.” To that end, the commission cracked down on cryptocurrency frauds on his watch. What the S.E.C. does now — if anything — to address another potential episode of meme-stock turmoil (or something like it) is open to debate. (Mr. Clayton has since rejoined corporate America, becoming the lead independent director of Apollo Global Management.)
Citadel Securities is a shadowy firm that handles more than a quarter of all stock trading in the U.S. (including a large share of Robinhood’s trades), making it a key player in debates about the future of market structure.
Tuesday, Feb. 23, 5:30 P.m. – 6 P.m.
Senator Mitt Romney on finding common ground
In stark contrast to many of his party colleagues, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, crossed party lines to vote to convict President Donald Trump on articles of impeachment, twice.
Mr. Romney also recently proposed a family benefit program that would provide monthly payments of up to $350 per child, which was met with approval from many Democrats. It compared favorably to a plan from President Biden.
Although some have accused him of a being a Republican in name only, Mr. Romney is in fact politically conservative and works with members on the right wing of his party. He is drafting a bill with Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas that would raise the minimum wage while forbidding businesses to hire undocumented immigrants. This is typical of Mr. Romney’s approach, insofar as it speaks to concerns on both sides of the aisle.
In his home state of Utah, Mr. Romney’s habit of speaking out against Mr. Trump is “an act to admire, not an apostasy.”