While direct social interaction at his workplace currently consists mainly of lectures with students, Prof. Rick Geddes, policy analysis and management, will be rubbing shoulders with influential players in Washington, D.C. in the fall as a senior staff economist with President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Geddes, whose one-year term begins on Aug. 1, was selected last month to work with the CEA. Working under the three-member council, Geddes and nine other senior staff economists from across the country will help carry out the CEA’s role in objectively reviewing government programs, providing analysis on economic current events and possibly giving advice to the president regarding economic policy and the annual Economic Report.
“I know a lot of really top people who have gone through the council,” Geddes said. “It’s a very distinguished group of people. I’m honored to be a part of that.”
Months ago, Geddes expressed interest in the position to current CEA senior staff economist Prof. Eric Helland, economics, Claremont-McKenna College. Geddes said that his relationship with Helland boosted his credentials. Geddes sent his resume in late February and found out weeks later that he received the appointment to the three-member council.
Geddes’ work has focused on network industries — a field which includes telecommunications and electricity. Because many of next year’s members are mostly concentrated in macroeconomics fields, Geddes thinks that his familiarity with a wide range of microeconomic issues made him an even more attractive candidate.
“They need someone who has a lot of breadth in microeconomics and I think I have that,” Geddes said.
Geddes approximated that 70 to 75 percent of the council’s work consists of reviewing different policies presented to the executive branch. Since many of the ideas and possible policies that are submitted to the committee are not very sound, Geddes said that a main benefit of his position next year will be his direct impact on the national policy process.
In addition, because the committee is mostly made up of economic scholars, Geddes said his future colleagues are likely to be honest and loyal to their profession, rather than be swayed by political pressures.
“The CEA has a very good reputation of being the truth tellers in Washington,” Geddes said. While the nation might elect a new president this November, Geddes will not be affected by a possible change of administration since he is not a political appointment. On the other hand, his three superiors which make up the CEA are susceptible to replacement — a factor that does not worry Geddes, as long as his new bosses are “good economists.”
Geddes is not the first Cornell professor to be working at the CEA. Most notable among his predecessors is Prof. Alfred Kahn, the Robert Julius Thorne Professor of Political Economy, Emeritus. Serving as a CEA senior staff economist between 1955 to 1957, Kahn went on to serve as the chair of the Civil Aeronautics Board during President Jimmy Carter’s administration and has been cited by many as the driving force behind the deregulation of airlines in the 1970s. Kahn did not respond to an e-mail request to be interviewed at the time of publication.
Geddes’ achievements and his current appointment have been recognized by a variety of figures on East Hill, including Prof. Richard Burkhauser, chair of the PAM department. Burkhauser said that students will benefit from learning about Geddes’ experience when he returns to campus — the PAM department is looking for their faculty to publish articles in scholarly journals and also make connections with policy making professions.
“We’re extremely proud of Rick’s opportunity to do this,” Burkhauser said. “It’s consistent with what we’ve been looking for with our scholars in PAM.”
Geddes, who teaches PAM 340: The Economics of Consumer Policy, PAM 200: Intermediate Microeconomics and PAM 334: Corporations, Shareholders and Policy, is also a research associate at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
A fixture at the University since 2002, Geddes has previously taught at Fordham University and was a visiting professor at Yale University Law School. Earning his undergraduate degree in economics and finance from Towson University, Geddes received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and is the author of a variety of books and articles.
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor