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.”