Peter R. Orszag

Peter R. Orszag

Peter Richard Orszag (born December 16, 1968) is an American economist who is a Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup. Orszag was born to Jewish parents of Hungarian ancestory. He is also a columnist at Bloomberg View and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Before joining Citigroup, he was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing columnist for the New York Times Op-Ed page. Prior to that, he was the 37th Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Barack Obama.

Biography

Orszag grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy with high honors (1987), he earned an A.B. summa cum laude in economics from Princeton University in 1991, and a M.Sc. (1992) and a Ph.D. (1997) in economics from the London School of Economics. He was a Marshall Scholar 1991–1992, and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, and serves on the Boards of Directors of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, the Partnership for Public Service in Washington, and ideas42 in Cambridge.

Career

Orszag was a senior fellow and Deputy Director of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he directed The Hamilton Project and (in conjunction with Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute) the Pew Charitable Trust's Retirement Security Project.

He served as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (1997–1998), and as Senior Economist and Senior Adviser on the Council of Economic Advisers (1995–1996) during the Clinton administration. He also formed a consulting group called Sebago Associates, which merged into Competition Policy Associates and was bought by FTI Consulting Inc. for a reported $70 million.

After leaving the Obama administration, Orszag took a job with Citigroup

He is also an invitee of the Bilderberg Group and attended the Swiss 2011 Bilderberg conference at the Suvretta House in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Congressional Budget Office

Orszag was director of the Congressional Budget Office from January 2007 to November 2008. During his tenure, he repeatedly drew attention to the role rising health care expenditures are likely to play in the government's long-term fiscal problems—and, by extension, the nation's long-term economic problems. "I have not viewed CBO's job as just to passively evaluate what Congress proposes, but rather to be an analytical resource. And part of that is to highlight things that are true and that people may not want to hear, including that we need to address health-care costs." During his time at the CBO, he added 20 full-time health analysts (bringing the total number to 50), thereby strengthening the CBO's analytical capabilities and preparing Congress for health-care reform.

He was widely praised for his time at CBO for preparing the agency for the debates to come. When he stepped down, National Journal noted that "Orszag, who will turn 40 on Dec. 16, has been praised by lawmakers from both parties as an objective analyst with deep knowledge of the most pressing fiscal issues of the day, including health care policy, Social Security, pensions, and global climate change. He is the unusual economist who blends an understanding of politics, policy and communications in ways that wrap zesty quotes around complex ideas."

Office of Management and Budget

On November 25, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced that Orszag would be his nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget, the arm of the White House responsible for crafting the federal budget and overseeing the effectiveness of federal programs.

Orszag, in a November 2009 speech in New York, said that deficits, expected to add $9 trillion to the current national debt of $12 trillion over the next decade, are "serious and ultimately unsustainable." He said that deficit spending was necessary to help boost the economy when unemployment is hovering around 10 percent. But he said that red ink must be stopped as the economy recovers. During a recovery, private investment will again pick up and compete with the federal government for capital.

In June 2010 the White House wants non-security federal agencies to list wasteful programs and produce budgets for fiscal year 2012 that cut spending by 5 percent. “It’s the beginning of the process, not the end,” he said. Orszag has stressed that the search for more spending reductions would focus on under-performing programs and that some agencies could see increases in spending. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Budget Committee Republican, said he’s “hopeful” federal agencies will heed Orszag’s call to cut spending but added that the proposed reforms didn’t go far enough. “I welcome any and all efforts that recognize the urgent need to get Washington’s fiscal house in order," Ryan said in a statement.

In July 2010 Orszag said that “The problem now is weak growth and high unemployment rather than outright economic collapse,”. Still, the deficit would be equivalent to 10 percent of the gross domestic product, the highest level since World War II. The Office of Management and Budget’s mid-session review, forecast a smaller deficit and stronger economic growth than the administration’s initial budget release. The deficit forecast in 2011 increased to $1.42 trillion, up from the $1.27 estimate in February. For 2012, the deficit estimate rose to $922 billion, up from $828 billion in the previous report. The annual budget shortfall would bottom out in 2017 at $721 billion, or 3.4 percent of GDP, and begin rising again in following years.

A review of Orszag's daily schedules shows his sustained focus on healthcare reform as soon as he joined Obama’s Cabinet. The daily schedules for Orszag, who left his position as Office of Management and Budget director in August, reveal that he and key White House aides regularly met to discuss healthcare starting in January 2009, within days of Obama entering office. Orszag also had meetings with insurance executives and health experts as the White House made health reform its top legislative priority after enacting the $814 billion stimulus.

When Orszag resigned, the Progressive Policy Institute summed up his time in office: "For an administration numbers-cruncher, he was unusually visible, which was a good thing. With a reputation for impartiality and brilliance, Orszag gave the administration’s agenda analytical ballast. There will no doubt be efforts on the right to brush Orszag with the red ink that the administration finds itself swimming in, but that’s politics as usual. Inheriting the worst economy since the 1930s, Orszag presided over the Herculean task of preventing a complete meltdown and setting the foundation for a recovery. In many ways, he’s a reflection of the administration at its best: a rigorous, pragmatic empiricist."

Citigroup and Bloomberg

Since January 2011, Orszag has been Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup. According to New York Magazine, "for an ambitious economist like Peter Orszag, going to work for Citigroup represented a choice. As a young staffer working in the Clinton White House, he saw laid before him two different paths: Stiglitzism and Rubinism. There were both intellectual and career-arc components to these. While both are liberal Democrats, Rubin was the consummate insider, whose philosophy was that the free markets, balanced budgets, and limited regulation would create a rising tide that would lift all boats (or at least make Wall Street not complain too much about Clinton’s social programs). Stiglitz, the public intellectual, is as concerned with the boats as with the tide. Orszag certainly had a lot in common with Stiglitz’s academic mien, having grown up in an intensely intellectual family in Lexington, Massachusetts, outside Boston. His father is a celebrated Yale math professor. But Orszag possessed an ambition that would take him beyond the ivory tower. He ultimately chose Rubinism. It makes perfect sense that Orszag would have been drawn toward Rubin. It must have been incredibly seductive seeing this world, watching the Rubin wing of the Democratic Party move so easily from government to Wall Street boardrooms to the table with Charlie Rose."

Orszag has also been writing a twice-a-month column for Bloomberg View. His early columns covered topics such as consumer-directed health care, political polarization, and growing gaps in life expectancy.

Personal life

Economists Alan Blinder (who taught him at Princeton) and Joseph Stiglitz were his mentors early in life, and later Robert Rubin.

He runs marathons and enjoys country music.

Orszag was first married in 1997 to Cameron Hamill, an assistant at the Treasury Department, with whom he had two children. They later divorced. In 2010, he became engaged to Bianna Golodryga, co-host of ABC's Weekend Good Morning America. Shortly after becoming engaged, he and a former partner, Claire Milonas, released a joint statement to the press, stating that they had been in a relationship up until the spring of 2009, and that in November of that year, Milonas had given birth to Orszag's third child.

Orszag and Golodryga were married in September 2010 in New York City. They are expecting a baby in the spring of 2012.

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