Paul O'Neill

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Alternative meaning: Paul O'Neill (baseball player)
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Paul H. O'Neill

Paul Henry O'Neill (born December 4, 1935) served as the 72nd United States Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush. He resigned in December 2002 under pressure from the administration, re-emerging as one of its harshest critics in January 2004.


Early history

O'Neill was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He met his wife at Anchorage High School in Alaska, where they both graduated from in 1954. He lived on the military base there with his parents. He received a bachelor's degree in Economics from California State University, Fresno in Fresno, California, and a master's degree in Public Administration from Indiana University. O'Neill and his wife Nancy (who was born on September 11) have four children and 12 grandchildren.

He began his public service as a computer systems analyst with the Veterans Administration, where he served from 1961 to 1966. He joined United States Office of Management and Budget in 1967, and was deputy director of OMB from 1974 to 1977. After President Gerald Ford lost the 1976 election, O'Neill took an executive job at the International Paper Company in New York City. He was vice president of the company from 1977 to 1985 and president from 1985 to 1987.

In 1988, he was approached by president George H. W. Bush to be Secretary of Defense. O'Neill declined, but recommended Dick Cheney for the position. Bush then pursued O'Neill to chair an advisory group on education that included Lamar Alexander, Bill Brock and Richard Riley. Under O'Neill's leadership, the group recommended national standards and unified testing standards.

O'Neill was chairman and CEO of Alcoa from 1987 to 1999, and retired as chairman at the end of 2000. His reign was extremely successful, as the company's earnings increased from $1.5 billion in 1987 to $23 billion in 2000 and O'Neill's personal fortune grew to $60 million.

In the late 1990s, O'Neill was made chairman of the RAND Corporation.

Bush Administration

O'Neill was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by George W. Bush. He selected Mark Weinberger to be the assistant secretary for tax policy. O'Neill was a somewhat outspoken member of the administration, often saying things to the press that went against the administration's party line, and doing unusual things like taking a tour of Africa with singer Bono.

A report commissioned in 2002 by O'Neill while Treasury Secretary suggested the United States faced future federal budget deficits of more than US$ 500 billion. The report also suggested that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts, or both would be unavoidable if the United States were to meet benefit promises to its future generations. The study estimated that closing the budget gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 percent across-the-board income tax increase. The Bush administration left the findings out of the 2004 annual budget report published in February 2003.

O'Neill's private feuds with Bush's tax cut policies led to his resignation in 2002 and replacement with John W. Snow.

Book: The Price of Loyalty

Main article: The Price of Loyalty

The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill (ISBN 0743255453), a 2004 book, described the Bush administration during O'Neill's tenure. Written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind (Pulitzer Prize journalist), the book says Bush's economic policies were irresponsible, Bush was unquestioning and uncurious, and the war in Iraq was planned from the first National Security Council meeting, soon after the administration took office.

O'Neill was critizied for his claims that Bush had wanted an invasion of Iraq so early in his term, but the current Downing Street Memo - if proven accurate - supports the position of O'Neill and Richard A. Clarke, both former members and now critics of Bush's administration, that indeed such planning was taking place.

Comments and views

In a July 25, 2001 International Herald Tribune article he shared a comment on the theory of an inevitable financial "contagion" in global financial markets. And the theory that investors at the time would retreated from emerging markets because of their worries that the financial crises in Argentina and Turkey may spread to Brazil and elsewhere. Mr. O'Neill said that this view was a "fashion" and that "we need to retire that fashion like the hula hoop." "With a magnifying glass, you couldn't find a connection between Turkey and Argentina, except maybe in people's minds," and that in a well-managed global system, investors would not pull back from loans in emerging markets simply because of such isolated troubles.

External links

Preceded by:
Lawrence H. Summers
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Succeeded by:
John W. Snow

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