What Obama's New Budget Chief Means for Your Wallet

What Obama's New Budget Chief Means for Your Wallet

If we told you someone who currently works for Walmart would be our next budget chief, how would you feel?

It probably depends on your view of Walmart: It's either a cost-cutting genius of a store, or a megabrand that exploits workers.

Whatever your opinion, that might change once you get to know the woman who Obama nominated to be our next budget chief, Sylvia Mathews Burwell. "Burwell of Walmart" doesn't really do her résumé justice.


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Burwell is the president of Walmart's philanthropic arm, the Walmart Foundation. And before that, she administered another enormous charitable endeavor (to the tune of $36 billion), the Gates Foundation. This experience—along with the fact she's a native of West Virginia, a state that struggles keenly with poverty issues—positions her as someone who's intimately aware of the average (and below average) American's money struggles.

She's also only the second woman to serve in the post, and will bring some diversity to Obama's board, largely stacked with white males.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, where she was a Rhodes scholar, she served in a variety of economic policy roles in the Clinton administration. She was a top aide to the Treasury secretary, Robert E. Rubin, and a staff member of the White House’s National Economic Council. Notably, this was during a time of economic surplus.

But things are a little bit different now.

Burwell will run the budget office, which helps the White House develop its spending policies and comes up with annual budget proposals. On her plate is helping Obama implement many of his State of the Union proposals and getting the late 2014 fiscal year budget proposal out the door. Oh, and dealing with the sequester, in which many government budgets will be slashed and burned—a move which will most likely impact the poor the most.

Welcome to the job, Ms. Burwell. And, uh, good luck!

Image credit: Flickr/Agrforum


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