The Broadman School of Economics

Broadman: Wide-ranging resume.
Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images
June 22, 2011, 5:25 p.m.

You reap what you sow. When Harry Broad­man was in­stalled as as­sist­ant U.S. trade rep­res­ent­at­ive in the early 1990s, his first as­sign­ment was to in­ter­pret an amend­ment to the Buy Amer­ica Act, which he had helped draft as a Sen­ate staffer a few years earli­er.

“I had to read the stat­ute at least 10 times be­fore I could fig­ure out how the heck this thing worked — I had made it so com­plic­ated,” he laughed. The le­gis­la­tion was choked with “if-and-then state­ments” — pro­vis­os to en­sure that the law was used as a “dam­age-con­trol meas­ure,” not a pro­tec­tion­ist bill.

A trained eco­nom­ist, Broad­man has al­ways favored glob­al­ism over pro­tec­tion­ism. Even in a politi­cized en­vir­on­ment — like at the Sen­ate Gov­ern­ment­al Af­fairs Com­mit­tee — he re­solved to de­liv­er “his best pro­fes­sion­al ad­vice,” whatever the pre­dilec­tions of law­makers or their con­stitu­ents. As the pan­el’s chief eco­nom­ist in the late 1980s, he nudged then-Chair­man John Glenn, D-Ohio, away from pro­tec­tion­ist votes. “My guess is there were maybe one or two times out of 30 where he’d vote a dif­fer­ent way than I’d re­com­mend.”

Broad­man’s re­fus­al to en­ter­tain polit­ic­al cal­cu­la­tions is con­sist­ent with the at­ti­tude of most eco­nom­ists. In 1990, he re­ceived a call from the chief of staff for Pres­id­ent George H.W. Bush’s Coun­cil of Eco­nom­ic Ad­visers.

“[Coun­cil Chair­man] Mi­chael Boskin wants to in­ter­view you for my job,” the aide said.

“Does Mi­chael know who I am?” Broad­man replied. (“I wasn’t ask­ing this in the clas­sic Wash­ing­ton snotty way, like many stuffed shirts do in this town when de­mand­ing a table at a res­taur­ant,” Broad­man said. “I genu­inely wondered if Boskin had made an er­ror.”)

“Yes, he knows who you are,” the White House of­fi­cial said. “He’s look­ing for a bright eco­nom­ist who un­der­stands policy.”

Broad­man had re­ser­va­tions about de­fect­ing to a Re­pub­lic­an White House, but “every single one of my friends said, “˜You’re ab­so­lutely nuts if you don’t do this in­ter­view.’ For an eco­nom­ist, work­ing on the CEA is like clerking on the Su­preme Court.”

Dur­ing the in­ter­view, Broad­man and Boskin got on like two “peas in a pod”; he was offered the job on the spot.

Broad­man has ex­per­i­ence in vir­tu­ally every sec­tor of the pub­lic-policy arena: Con­gress, the White House, aca­demia, think tanks, in­ter­na­tion­al fin­an­cial in­sti­tu­tions, and private con­sultan­cies. Earli­er this month, he was named man­aging dir­ect­or at PwC US, where he will ad­vise cor­por­a­tions and oth­er cli­ents on is­sues re­lated to emer­ging mar­kets. He moves from Al­bright Stone­bridge, a glob­al con­sult­ing firm co­chaired by former Sec­ret­ary of State Madeleine Al­bright and former Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­viser Sandy Ber­ger. Be­fore that, Broad­man was a top of­fi­cial at the World Bank.

A nat­ive of Westchester County, N.Y., Broad­man stud­ied his­tory and eco­nom­ics at Brown Uni­versity. After re­ceiv­ing a doc­tor­ate in eco­nom­ics from the Uni­versity of Michigan, he be­came as­sist­ant dir­ect­or of Wash­ing­ton-based Re­sources for the Fu­ture, where he med­it­ated on a ques­tion that is still rel­ev­ant today: “wheth­er or not the price of gas­ol­ine that U.S. cit­izens pay is high enough to take in­to ac­count the na­tion­al se­cur­ity risks that we ac­tu­ally are ex­posed to.”

His re­search at­trac­ted the at­ten­tion of some fac­ulty mem­bers at Har­vard Uni­versity.

“I was sit­ting at my desk at RFF mind­ing my own busi­ness when I got an in­vit­a­tion to join the Har­vard fac­ulty,” said Broad­man, who promptly re­lo­cated to Cam­bridge, Mass.

Two years later, Broad­man was again “just mind­ing my own busi­ness when I got a couple of job of­fers in the Sen­ate.”

“I had a “˜wealth of riches’ cal­cu­la­tion to make: teach at Har­vard, or work in the U.S. Sen­ate”¦. And I de­cided that, if Har­vard wanted me once, per­haps they may want me again. But work­ing in the Sen­ate for a Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity was a once-in-a-life­time deal.”

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