Alan Greenspan -biography
Alan Greenspan (born March 6, 1926) is an American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006. He currently works as a private advisor and provides consulting for firms through his company, Greenspan Associates LLC. First appointed Federal Reserve chairman by President Ronald Reagan in August 1987, he was reappointed at successive four-year intervals until retiring on January 31, 2006 after the second-longest tenure in the position.
Early life and education
Greenspan was born in 1926 in the Washington Heights area of New York City. His family was Jewish, with Herbert Greenspan, Alan's father, of Romanian-Jewish descent, and Alan’s mother, Rose Goldsmith, of Hungarian-Jewish descent.
Greenspan is an accomplished clarinet and saxophone player who played with Stan Getz when they were in school together. He studied clarinet at the Juilliard School from 1943 to 1944, when he dropped out to join a professional jazz band. He returned to college in 1945, attending New York University (NYU), where he received a B.S. in economics summa cum laude in 1948 and an M.A. in economics in 1950. Greenspan went on to Columbia University, intending to pursue advanced economic studies, but subsequently dropped out. At Columbia, Greenspan studied economics under the tutelage of future Fed chairman Arthur Burns, who constantly warned of the dangers of inflation.
In 1977, NYU awarded him a Ph.D. in economics. His dissertation is not available from NYU since it was removed at Greenspan's request in 1987, when he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. However, a single copy has been found, and the 'introduction includes a discussion of soaring housing prices and their effect on consumer spending; it even anticipates a bursting housing bubble'.
Prior to the Federal Reserve
From 1948 to 1953, Greenspan worked as an economic analyst at The Conference Board, a business and industry oriented think-tank in New York City. From 1955 to 1987, when he was appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan was chairman and president of Townsend-Greenspan & Co., Inc., an economic consulting firm in New York City, a 33-year stint interrupted only from 1974 to 1977 by his service as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Gerald Ford. In the summer of 1968, Greenspan agreed to serve Richard Nixon as his coordinator on domestic policy in the nomination campaign. Greenspan has also served as a corporate director for Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa); Automatic Data Processing, Inc.; Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.; General Foods, Inc.; J.P. Morgan & Co., Inc.; Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York; Mobil Corporation; and The Pittston Company. He was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations foreign policy organization between 1982 and 1988. He also served as a member of the influential Washington-based financial advisory body, the Group of Thirty in 1984.
Chairman of the Federal Reserve
On June 2, 1987, President Reagan nominated Greenspan as a successor to Paul Volcker as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, and the Senate confirmed him on August 11, 1987. After the nomination, bond markets experienced their biggest one-day drop in 5 years. Just two months after his confirmation he was faced with his first crisis — the 1987 stock market crash. Noted investor, author and commentator Jim Rogers has claimed that Greenspan lobbied to get this chairmanship.
His terse statement that the Fed "affirmed today its readiness to serve as a source of liquidity to support the economic and financial system" is seen by many as having been effective in helping to control the damage from that crash.
His handling of monetary policy in the run-up to the 1991 recession was criticized from the right as being excessively tight, and costing George H. W. Bush re-election. The incoming Democratic president Bill Clinton reappointed Greenspan, and kept him as a core member of his economic team. Greenspan, while still fundamentally monetarist in orientation, argued that doctrinaire application of theory was insufficiently flexible for central banks to meet emerging situations.
Another famous example of the effect of his closely parsed comments was his December 5, 1996 remark about "irrational exuberance and unduly escalating stock prices" that led Japanese stocks to fall 3.2%.
During the Asian financial crisis of 1997—1998, the Federal Reserve flooded the world with dollars, and organized a bailout of Long-Term Capital Management. Some have argued that 1997-1998 represented a monetary policy bind — as the early 1970s had represented a fiscal policy bind — and that while asset inflation had crept into the United States, demanding that the Fed tighten, the Federal Reserve needed to ease liquidity in response to the capital flight from Asia. Greenspan himself noted this when he stated that the American stock market showed signs of irrationally high valuations.
In 2000, Greenspan raised interest rates several times; these actions were believed by many to have caused the bursting of the dot-com bubble. However, according to the Economist Paul Krugman "he didn't raise interest rates to curb the market's enthusiasm; he didn't even seek to impose margin requirements on stock market investors. Instead, he waited until the bubble burst, as it did in 2000, then tried to clean up the mess afterward." In autumn of 2001, as a decisive reaction to September 11 attacks and the various corporate scandals which undermined the economy, the Greenspan-led Federal Reserve initiated a series of interest cuts that brought down the Federal Funds rate to 1% in 2004. His critics, notably Steve Forbes, attributed the rapid rise in commodity prices and gold to Greenspan's loose monetary policy which is causing excessive asset inflation and a weak dollar. By late 2004 the price of gold was higher than its 12-year moving average.
On May 18, 2004, Greenspan was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve for an unprecedented fifth term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. He was previously appointed to the post by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
In a May 2005 speech, Greenspan stated: "Two years ago at this conference I argued that the growing array of derivatives and the related application of more-sophisticated methods for measuring and managing risks had been key factors underlying the remarkable resilience of the banking system, which had recently shrugged off severe shocks to the economy and the financial system. At the same time, I indicated some concerns about the risks associated with derivatives, including the risks posed by concentration in certain derivatives markets, notably the over-the-counter (OTC) markets for U.S. dollar interest rate options."
Greenspan opposed tariffs against China for its refusal to let the yuan rise. U.S. workers displaced by trade with China should be compensated, he said, through unemployment insurance programs and retraining.
Greenspan's term as a member of the Board ended on January 31, 2006, and Ben Bernanke was confirmed as his successor.
After the Federal Reserve
On February 26, 2007, Greenspan forecast a possible surplus in the U.S. before or in early 2008. Stabilizing corporate profits are said to have influenced his comments. The following day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by 416 points and increased 3.3.% of its value.
In mid-January 2008, hedge fund Paulson & Co. hired Greenspan as an adviser on economic issues and monetary policy. This is the third private role given to Greenspan, the first two being given by Deutsche Bank and bond investment company Pacific Investment Management (PIMCO). Greenspan advises Paulson & Co on economics issues surrounding United States and world financial markets.
Greenspan also counsels on monetary policy and falling housing prices and about a possible recession in the United States. Paulson & Co is famously known for its record profit making during 2007 by conducting bets against mortgage derivatives which earned the firm billions of dollars last year. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed and Greenspan must not, under the agreement, advise any other hedge fund manager while working for Paulson.
Greenspan also now works as a private advisor making speeches and providing consulting for firms through his company, Greenspan Associates LLC. Directly following his retirement as Fed chairman, Greenspan accepted an honorary (unpaid) position at HM Treasury in the United Kingdom. In May 2007, Greenspan was hired as a special consultant by PIMCO to participate in Pimco’s quarterly economic forums and speak privately with the bond manager about Fed interest rate policy. In August 2007, Deutsche Bank announced that it would be retaining Greenspan as a Senior Advisor to its investment banking team and clients.
He has written his memoir, titled The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, published September 17, 2007. Greenspan says that he wrote this book in longhand mostly while soaking in the bathtub, a habit he regularly employs ever since an accident in 1971, when he injured his back. Greenspan discusses in his book, among other things, his history in government and economics, capitalism and other modes of economies, current issues in the global economy, and future issues that face the global economy. In the book Greenspan criticizes President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Republican-controlled Congress for abandoning the Republican Party's principles on spending and deficits. Greenspan's criticisms of President Bush include his refusal to veto spending bills, sending the country into increasingly deep deficits, and for "putting political imperatives ahead of sound economic policies". Greenspan writes, "They swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose [the 2006 election]." Of all the presidents with whom he worked, he praises Bill Clinton above all others, saying that Clinton maintained "a consistent, disciplined focus on long-term economic growth." Although he respected what he saw as Richard Nixon's immense intelligence, Greenspan found him to be "sadly paranoid, misanthropic and cynical". He said of Gerald Ford that he "was as close to normal as you get in a president, but he was never elected". As for advice regarding future U.S. economic policy, one change Greenspan recommends is for the U.S. to improve its primary and secondary education systems. He asserts this would narrow the unusually large gap between the minority of high income earners and the majority of workers, whose wages have not grown proportionately with globalization and the nation's GDP growth.