When the President Calls, by Simon Bowmaker

book cover
When the President Calls (MIT Press, 2019) features interviews with 35 economic policymakers who served US presidents from Nixon to Trump. The interviews with heavyweights like George Shultz, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Martin Feldstein, Robert Rubin, Joseph Stiglitz, Janet Yellen, Henry Paulson, and others, collectively form a comprehensive picture of how economic policy is made, the difficult tradeoffs involved, and how economists have dealt with the high pressure and huge stakes of the Oval Office. The idea that the wrong advice could be calamitous is never far from anyone’s mind. In addition to offering fascinating personal detail—the turmoil and personality clashes—the interviews shed new light on the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, the thinking behind the Reagan tax cuts, the economic factors that cost George H.W. Bush a second term, the constraints facing policymakers during the financial crisis of 2008, the differences in work styles between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the Trump administration’s early budget process, and more. When the President Calls is an indispensable, behind-the-scenes look at the last 50 years of economic policymaking in the US.

Simon Bowmaker is a Clinical Professor of Economics at NYU Stern.