Michael Pyle ’00 to serve as chief economic adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris

by Soleil Gaylord | 1/29/21 2:00am

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Source: Courtesy of Michael Pyle '00

On Jan. 8, transition officials for President Joe Biden’s administration announced that Michael Pyle ’00 would serve as chief economic adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris. In the role, Pyle will be responsible for analyzing information on economic developments and providing policy recommendations to the vice president. 

Prior to joining Harris’s team, Pyle worked as the chief investment strategist for BlackRock, an investment management company. He also served in President Barack Obama's administration as special assistant to the president for economic policy at the National Economic Council. In addition, Pyle has worked within the Congressional Budget Office, the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget. Prior to his tapping as chief economic adviser, he had known the vice president from his time as an outside economic advisor to her presidential campaign. 

Public policy professor Charles Wheelan said that as Harris’s chief economic adviser, Pyle will face numerous hurdles beyond the immediate issue of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The big question, post-COVID, is what the plan is for ameliorating income inequality and lack of access to economic opportunity,” Wheelan said, adding that Pyle will face questions relating to issues like the minimum wage and universal basic income, both of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. He noted that he believes Pyle will approach these matters with a strong combination of “intelligence, thoughtfulness and practical policy experience.” 

Pyle highlighted the challenges of his new role — public health and economic, climate and racial justice — and likened today’s situation to what he faced during the Obama administration. During that time, he addressed issues including the European debt crisis, the development of the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Reform and Recovery Act of 2016 and tense U.S.-China economic and financial relations. 

“I would compare it to 12 years ago. I think about how terrifying that moment was economically in the middle of the financial crisis and the beginning stages of the Great Recession,” Pyle said. “This moment is so many ways even more complex and challenging.”

Pyle added that his experience in the Obama administration taught him essential lessons in the importance of acting swiftly. He said his work in the private sector also provided important preparation for his new position, underscoring the need to differentiate between the financial markets and the economy — ensuring that the “real economy” generates the conditions to elevate working Americans.

“There is no substitute for acting quickly and in size to confront those challenges,” Pyle said. “At the end of the day, the risks are in doing too little rather than too much.”

Pyle graduated as salutatorian from Dartmouth with a degree in economics. He noted that his experience at Dartmouth informed his career path.

“I think of so many professors who really shaped my time there and channeled what had been an unformed belief in the need for public service and expertise in public policy and economics,” Pyle said.

Economics professor Douglas Irwin, who taught Pyle as an undergraduate student in ECON 39, “International Trade,” said that Pyle consistently made an impression in class, which he remembers to this day. 

“He was incredibly bright and remains so,” Irwin said. He added that Pyle’s appointment as Harris’s chief economic advisor is well-deserved and a moment of pride for the College. 

“I think it is very exciting for him, for Dartmouth, for the administration. He is very sensible, so I am sure he is going to do a terrific job,” Irwin said. 

Economics professor Andrew Samwick echoed Irwin’s sentiments, saying he had “complete confidence” in Pyle’s abilities. Samwick added that Pyle’s professionalism and skill would be instrumental given the need to act swiftly under the Biden administration.

“There is a lot at stake for this administration, having Vice President Harris being integral and visible,” Samwick said. “A lot of things that happen in policymaking circles are done on such a time crunch that you want smart people in the room.”

Samwick also said that he thinks Pyle may earn a higher-up role within the administration as Biden’s term progresses.

“I think there would be opportunities for him to move into positions that are more central to the economic policy,” Samwick said. “Somebody as smart, and worldly, and experienced as [Pyle] has the chance to shine.”

Pyle’s appointment follows the appointment of Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chair, as Treasury secretary. Pyle will also be joined by two former BlackRock employees — Brian Deese, who has been appointed as director of the National Economic Council, and Adewale Adeyemo, who has been nominated to the position of deputy treasury secretary. 

Some have criticized Pyle’s involvement in the administration in light of his position at BlackRock, especially given the other former BlackRock personnel who have recently signed on to Biden and Harris’s team. Irwin, however, said he feels that the backlash is overblown. 

“I view this as credential carping; there are always going to be critics out there,” Irwin said. “He is very practical, and I think he is a great appointment.”

Before his involvement in the workforce, Pyle received his law degree from Yale Law School and Cambridge University, where he studied as a Keasbey Scholar. Afterward, he clerked for Judge Merrick Garland, Biden’s nominee for attorney general — a period in which Pyle said he learned the virtues of public service. 

Since graduating, Pyle has returned to campus frequently. Wheelan, who teaches GOVT 68, “The Future of Capitalism,” said that Pyle often visited the class to advise students on their class projects.  

Rockefeller Center for Public Policy director Jason Barabas said that Pyle has been a “valued member” of the Rockefeller Center Board of Visitors, noting that Pyle consistently expressed his willingness to help Dartmouth students. Barabas added that he was confident that Pyle would be an ongoing resource for Dartmouth students in Washington, D.C.

Pyle emphasized the pride he felt in having been a part of Obama's team and the history that Obama made as the first Black president and now in his role advising “not just the first woman, but the first woman of color to hold national office.”

Pyle said that the vice president called him on his birthday to offer the job.

“I was extraordinarily surprised and honored, and I accepted on the spot,” Pyle said. Pyle also knew Biden previously from accompanying him as an economic advisor on a foreign service trip.

In his job working for the Biden administration, Pyle said he hopes to model for his three young sons what it means to “embrace the future of this country.”

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