His audience is small - only seven or eight - but Assoc. Prof. Robert Murphy (Economics) will influence the lives of all Americans as editor of the report used for the weekly economic briefing of the president of the United States. Editorship of that publication is Murphy's primary duty as a senior economist on the Council of Economic Advisors in the Executive Office of the President.
On June 19, Murphy began a year-long leave of absence from the University and moved his office from Carney Hall to the Executive Office Building across the street from the White House. The one-year appointment, Murphy said, "came out of the blue," beginning with a voice mail message he assumed was a reference check on a former graduate student. But Murphy's predecessor on the council had recommended him for the job and the call was an invitation to interview.
Murphy is not new to the council: he served as a junior economist as a graduate student early in the Reagan Administration. "I'm more ideologically in tune with the current administration, so I look forward to the different experience and new role I will play in shaping economic policy," Murphy said. "I also think that many of the issues I'll be dealing with will generate new ideas for my future research and teaching at Boston College."
The council's 13 senior economists, mostly drawn from the academic community, provide objective economic analysis and advice on the development and implementation of a wide range of domestic and international economic policy issues. Murphy's role on the council is different than the others' in that he summarizes a variety of issues - from international trade to interest rates to agricultural concerns - while they work in specific areas.
Murphy's report is seen by the president, vice president and the president's other principal economic advisors. In five or six pages, it summarizes important economic issues and concerns for the president each week and is reinforced with an oral briefing by the council chair. Murphy has heard, however, that the president actually reads the report on a regular basis.
"I've been told Vice President Gore reads every issue, while President Clinton gets to every two out of three," he said. "I think they see it as a good device to bring an economist's perspective to their thoughts on important issues."
Murphy said the immediate economic concern he will face in Washington is the question of balancing the federal budget, but welfare and tax code reform will be prominent issues in the early going as well.
"Also, the Mexican peso crisis might creep up again and while the dollar has settled down, it is still an issue, especially with the sharp rise of the Japanese yen compared to the dollar," said Murphy, whose recent research has focused on Latin American economies and monetary issues. On occasion, Murphy will provide economic information on countries the president plans to visit.
Murphy joined the Economics Department as an assistant professor in 1984 and was promoted to associate professor in 1990.
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