- Category : Business-Economist
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sleeping Phoenix 4
American government aide, the Chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisor in August 1982 and one of the most influential of the nation's conservative young economists.
Martin Feldstein is the son of Meyer Feldstein, an attorney in general practice, and Esther (Gevarter) Feldstein. When he was 11 years old, his family moved to Rockville Center, Long Island, where he attended South Side High School. In 1957 he entered Harvard University on a scholarship. He had originally intended to pursue a law degree like his father, but instead majored in economics. He also took all the required premedical courses. For his senior thesis, he creatively combined the two subjects in a cost-benefit analysis suggesting new ways of allocating government medical research monies.
After earning a Harvard B.A. degree in economics, summa cum laude, 1961, Feldstein attended Oxford University on a Fulbright fellowship. His plan was to study health economics for a year or two and then return to Harvard for a medical degree. However, while he was at Oxford, he learned of econometrics, the statistical study of economics data using the computer. Intrigued by this new discipline, he stayed at Oxford for six years. In 1964, he earned an M.A. degree, and in 1967, his Ph.D. From 1965 to 1967 he lectured on public finance at Nuffield, Oxford and published numerous papers on the British national health system.
Feldstein returned to the U.S. in 1967 as an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University. Within two years, he rose to full rank of professor. During the late 1960s and 1970s, Feldstein produced econometric analyses of public subsidy programs and tax laws that helped lay the groundwork for the development of supply-side economics. His standard-setting use of econometrics in public policy issues won him the regard of conservative and liberal colleagues alike.
Perhaps his most controversial were his studies of the Social Security system. The detailed report of his findings was first published in the Journal of Political Economy in 1974. Feldstein claimed that the federal retirement program retarded national economic growth because it discouraged personal savings by an estimated 50 percent. He was at the forefront of the growing ranks of young, conservative economists who became known as "supply-siders," a term used to differentiate them from the demand-oriented Keynesians. Based on his conviction that he had found solutions to the nation’s economic problems, he set out in the late 1970s, to influence policymaking at the highest level. He published studies and contributed regularly to professional journals. He made frequent appearances before congressional committees while carefully avoided identification with either political party to preserve his non-partisan stance. In 1975, he declined President Gerald Ford’s offer of a seat on the Council of Economic Advisers.
Feldstein’s influence increased substantially when he was named president of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in April 1977. A non-profit economic research organization, the NBER is best known for its reliable, independent reviews of government statistical data. Under his direction, the NBER began an ambitious publishing program. The organization published up to 200 papers per year, many of them reflecting the conservative perspective of the new bureau president. He came under fire from critics who charged that he was using the bureau as "his own private vehicle." Feldstein replied to the critics by arguing that the organization’s conservative shift merely reflected the rightward drift of the economics profession as a whole. In 1977, he received the John Bates Black Medal, given biennially to the most distinguished American economist under the age of 40.
By the early 1980s, Feldstein was generally considered the leading academic spokesperson for "supply-siders" in Washington. President-elect Ronald Reagan considered him for his Council of Economic Advisers, but Feldstein declined. Approached a second time in the summer of 1982, he accepted. Some analysts speculated that Feldstein may have been unable to resist the opportunity to save the foundering Reaganomics. Before agreeing to the post, Feldstein gained assurances from the White House that he would play a key role in economic policy-making, along with Secretary of the Treasury, Donald Regan and David Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Feldstein secured a leave of absence from Harvard, and took over the chairmanship of the Council of Economic Advisors on 9/08/1982, pending Senate confirmation. He was confirmed on 12/08/1982 by a vote of 77 to 18. The first major test of his influence in the White House hierarchy came in December 1982 when he disagreed with other top forecasters over the projected growth rate for 1983. He claimed that these projections were overly optimistic and with the help of a number of respected young economists recruited from Harvard, projected a growth rate of "around 3 percent." Although he reportedly threatened to resign, ultimately the others gave in and Feldstein’s projections were used in President Reagan’s budget and economic forecast.
Feldstein held the post of chairman of President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors until 1984. Feldstein has served on the editorial boards of Public Interest, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and the Review of Economics and Statistics, and he has been coeditor of the Journal of Public Economics. He continues to publish prolifically on the topic of economic policy. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including: The Risk of Economic Crisis (editor, July 1991), American Economic Policy in the 1980s (editor, August 1995) and Privatizing Social Security (paperback edition, April 2000). As of May 2000, he is the President and CEO of the NBER.
Described as "unathletic-looking," Feldstein is 5’ 9" tall and of average build. Economics is both his vocation and avocation and he has few other interests. Cross-country skiing outings and traveling with his family are among his few outside activities. His wife, Kathleen Foley Feldstein, whom he married on 6/19/1965, is also an economist. Their two daughters are Margaret and Janet.