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Summary Article: Paul H. O’Neill Former Secretary to the US Treasury
from QFinance: The Ultimate Resource
LIFE AND CAREER

Paul H. O’Neill is an influential economist, who served under the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and was the US Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush, before resigning, and becoming a harsh critic of the Bush regime. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Economics from California State University, Fresno, he went on to gain further degrees at Claremont Graduate University and Indiana University. He worked at the Veterans’ Administration, and the US Office of Management and Budget, was appointed President of International Paper, and then Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alcoa. His management of Alcoa was a successful one, with the company increasing its revenues from US$1.5 billion in 1987 to US$23 billion in 2000. He later returned to the public sector under President George W. Bush, where he was noted for taking a different approach, such as touring Africa with singer, Bono, before resigning after disputes with the Bush team over tax issues.

KEY THINKING
  • Paul H. O’Neill was US Secretary of the Treasury during part of the first administration of George W. Bush, before resigning in 2002 due to differences in opinion over governmental and tax policies; he has since become a vocal critic of the Bush administration.

  • As US Secretary of the Treasury, he was an outspoken member of the administration, often offering opinions that ran counter to the administration’s party line.

  • He argued against the invasion of Iraq as part of the war on terror, setting himself in opposition to the neo-conservatives in Bush’s team.

  • He worked hard to push through serious financial and diplomatic engagement in the battle against AIDS in Africa.

IN PERSPECTIVE
  • He was asked to be Secretary of Defense by President George H. W. Bush in 1988, but he declined, instead recommending Dick Cheney for the position.

  • O’Neill was then appointed to chair an advisory group on education by the president; under his leadership, the advisory group made important recommendations concerning national standards, and unified testing standards.

  • While working at the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative, he was instrumental in improvements in patient safety and the quality of healthcare; it created a coalition that addressed the existing problems as a region, adopting the scheme of “Perfecting Patient Care.”

  • A report he commissioned as Treasury Secretary showed that there were potential federal budget deficits of more than US$500 billion, and that massiv tax increases or spending cuts would be necessary to meet benefit promises. O’Neill was unhappy that the report’s findings were omitted from the 2004 annual budget report.

  • As Secretary of the Treasury, his style was often at odds with the financial markets, as well as some of the policy decisions that originated from political advisors who disagreed with the views of leading cabinet officials.

  • He questioned President Bush’s plans for tax cuts, and his desire to investigate alleged Al-Qaeda funding from some US-allied countries, which led to him being sacked in December 2002.

“Our intention is to give people, however you might stylize it, a tax cut or a pay raise.”

Paul H. O’Neill
Copyright © Bloomsbury Information Ltd, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

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