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Alan Greenspan

Alan GreenspanBorn: 6-Mar-1926
Birthplace: New York City

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Economist
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Federal Reserve Chairman, 1987-2006

From 1987 until 2006, Alan Greenspan was the chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board, which oversees the Federal Reserve Bank, a private corporation chartered in 1913 by Congress and President Woodrow Wilson to service the nation's banks.

As a young man, Greenspan attended the Juilliard School and later toured with Henry Jerome and his orchestra, a swing ensemble of some renown. Greenspan played saxophone and clarinet, but with his knack for numbers he quickly found himself keeping the band's books and doing his bandmates' taxes. And while they went boozing and carousing' on off nights, he preferred to stay in his hotel room reading economics texts and business books. In September 1944, he enrolled at New York University to study economics. He earned two degrees there, then worked on his PhD at Columbia University until, unable to afford tuition, he was compelled to drop out.

He worked briefly as an economist with the National Industrial Conference Board, then opened an economic consulting firm with bond trader William Townsend, called Townsend, Greenspan, & Company. With prestigious clients such as US Steel and J.P. Morgan, the firm had some successful years, but some accounts suggest that T G & Co was wobbling when Greenspan took a job as director of policy research for Richard M. Nixon's presidential campaign in 1968. He later popped up as chairman of President Gerald Ford's Council of Economic Advisers, before returning to T G & Co. In 1977, New York University gave Greenspan his PhD, without requiring a dissertation.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Greenspan as Fed chairman, a post he's held ever since, through the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Six months after taking the job, Greenspan presided over the biggest stock market crash in Wall Street's history.

As Fed chairman, he set interest rates, and as such was largely responsible for directing U.S. national monetary policy. In essence, Greenspan was the human face of American capitalism. Twice a year, he gave Congress his assessment of America's economic status, and millions of investors paid close attention to what he said. In 1996, he gave a speech that included a quip questioning the stock market's "irrational exuberance on asset values". The following day the Dow Jones index fell 145 points. Former Congressman Frank Ikard once wisecracked that Greenspan is "the kind of person who knows how many thousands of flat-headed bolts were used in a Chevrolet and what it would do to the national economy if you took out three of them".

Greenspan is not, however, universally respected. Bill Gross, the founder of Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) who oversees some $350 billion in fixed income securities, has compared Greenspan to Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy from Andy of Mayberry. Gross characterizes Greenspan as a man "afraid of his own shadow".

Greenspan's first wife, Joan Mitchell, introduced Greenspan to Objectivist author Ayn Rand, who became his friend and mentor. Greenspan wrote for Rand's The Objectivist newsletter, and in 1957, he wrote an angry letter to The New York Times complaining about the paper's review of Atlas Shrugged. Admirers of Rand, however, generally see Greenspan as a traitor, since he never advocated anything that approaches Rand's absolute laissez-faire capitalism.

More recently, Greenspan's reputation has faltered along with the world economy, and hindsight-assisted evidence suggests that he turned a deaf ear to warnings of the housing and stock market bubbles that exploded after he left the Fed in 2006. In House hearings during the second month of the market meltdown of 2008, Greenspan testified that he had "found a flaw" in his market ideology, and conceded that he had been "partially" wrong in opposing regulation of derivatives.

Father: Herbert Greenspan (stockbroker)
Mother: Rose Goldsmith (furniture saleswoman)
Wife: Joan Mitchell (painter, m. 1952; div. 1953)
Girlfriend: Barbara Walters (journalist, 20/20)
Wife: Andrea Mitchell (NBC correspondent, m. 6-Apr-1997)

    High School: George Washington High School, New York City, NY
    University: The Juilliard School (no degree)
    University: BA Economics, New York University (1948)
    University: MA Economics, New York University (1950)
    University: PhD Economics, New York University (1977)
    University: Columbia University (studied 1950-51)

    US Federal Reserve Chairman 11-Aug-1987 to 31-Jan-2006
    Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
    US Council of Economic Advisers 1974-77
    Member of the Board of Alcoa (1980s)
    Alfalfa Club 1996
    American Philosophical Society 2000
    Bohemian Grove
    Gerald R. Ford Foundation Trustee
    Group of Thirty
    Hoover Institution Board of Overseers
    National Association for Business Economics Fellow
    RAND Corporation
    Trilateral Commission
    Institute for International Economics Board of Directors (Honorary)
    French Legion of Honor 2000
    Knight of the British Empire 2002 (Honorary)
    Officer of the British Empire
    Presidential Medal of Freedom 9-Nov-2005
    Endorsement of Apple Apple //c (1985)
    Wedding: William Cohen and Janet Langhart (1996)
    Wedding: Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell (1997)
    Roast: Don Imus (1999)
    Funeral: Katharine Graham (2001)
    Roast: Tom Brokaw (2002)
    Funeral: Gerald Ford (2007) Honorary Pallbearer
    Funeral: Tim Russert (2008)
    Roast: Stephen Colbert (2008)
    Prostate Surgery (Jun-1994)
    Prostate Surgery (Apr-2003)

    I. O. U. S. A. (19-Jan-2008) · Himself

Appears on the cover of:
Business Week, 16-Dec-2002, DETAILS: The Future of the Fed -- The Greenspan Legacy -- The Big Changes Ahead (photo by Katherine Lambert)

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