A Conversation With One of Our Most Influential Economists Ever, Michael Boskin


A Conversation with Stanford University's Brilliant Michael Boskin — One of Our Most Influential Economists Ever — About His Scary New Book on U.S. Defense Policy.

When it comes to discussing economics, in general, and economic policy in particular, there's no one better than my long-time, close friend, Michael Boskin. Michael is a Professor of Economics at Stanford, a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institute, and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Michael is a low-key guy, but has had an absolutely huge impact on economic policy.

Michael was instrumental in designing President Reagan’s tax reforms, including lowering marginal tax rates, indexing tax brackets for inflation, enhancing investment incentives, and creating IRAs and 401ks. Between 1989 and 1993, Michael served as Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush. There he helped design and implement the Brady Plan and NAFTA. The Brady Plan gave critical debt relief to developing countries and NAFTA — the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement — has, on balance, served our country, Canada, and Mexico enormously well.

Michael also played a major role in helping resolve the S&L financial crisis. After leaving the Council,  Michael chaired the highly influential CPI Commission, which transformed the way government statistical agencies around the world measure inflation, GDP, and productivity. Teddy Roosevelt said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." As you'll hear/see in this riveting episode of Economics Matters -- the Podcast, Michael speaks softly. His big stick is his economics intellect, common sense, and statesmanship. There is a reason he has been a one-person Kitchen Cabinet to so many Presidents. There's also a reason he writes for the Wall Street Journal and other major outlets and why so many members of Congress, Democrats as well as Republicans, routinely seek his advice. In short, Michael Boskin is a testament to the ability of one person, and an academic to boot, to change the world forever and for the good. 

But Michael’s hardly hanging up his spikes. As we discuss in this podcast, Michael just co-edited an incredible and incredibly disturbing book called Defense Budgeting for a Safer World. This 500-page volume has a boring title. But it’s an amazing page turner and eye-openers. It has 39 authors, so each chapter is short and straight to the scary point. The authors include former admirals, generals, a former Secretary of State, former intelligence officers, aerospace executives, former senior Defense Department officials, a former CIA Director, former members of the Joint Chiefs, a former Commander of NATO Forces, top defense industry executives, and more. One could not assemble more experienced and respected authorities to discuss the dire and ever worsening military challenges facing our country.

Here's Michael's bio.

Michael J. Boskin is the Wohlford Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Tully M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford. He is also a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. In addition, he advises governments and businesses globally.

Boskin served as chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) from 1989 to 1993, when he helped resolve the Third World Debt and Saving and Loan financial crises, and place the first effective controls on government spending while protecting the defense budget. His CEA was rated by the Council for Excellence in Government as one of the five most respected agencies in the federal government. He earlier served on presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s Tax Policy Task Force, helping develop the policies that, during Reagan’s presidency,  substantially lowered marginal tax rates, indexed tax brackets for inflation, accelerated depreciation, and created IRAs and 401Ks, the economic rationale for which was predicated on his research on the effects of taxes on saving. He later chaired the highly influential blue-ribbon Advisory Commission to Study the Consumer Price Index, whose report has transformed the way government statistical agencies around the world measure inflation, GDP, and productivity. 

Boskin serves on several corporate and philanthropic boards of directors, including those of the Oracle Corporation, the Koret Foundation and Bloom Energy.

In addition to Stanford and the University of California, Boskin has taught at Harvard and Yale. The author of more than one hundred fifty books and articles, he is internationally recognized for his research on world economic growth, tax and budget theory and policy, US saving and consumption patterns, and the implications of changing technology and demography on capital, labor, and product markets. His op-eds appear regularly in the Wall Street Journal and other leading newspapers. He also writes a bimonthly column on global economics and politics syndicated in 145 countries.

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Related: Discussing Economic Policy with Obama's Chief Economist Jason Furman