Tiger of the Week: Douglas Elmendorf ’83

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The posts on Douglas Elmendorf ’83′s blog don’t sound like the typical Web fare – “Estimated Impact of the Stimulus Package on Employment and Economic Output,” “Latest Projections for the TARP,” and “Annual Summer Update of the Budget and Economic Outlook.” But Elmendorf is not the typical blogger. He’s the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill’s nonpartisan analysis service, and when he posts (or speaks, or releases a report), the markets listen. On Aug. 19, for instance, Elmendorf released the CBO’s latest outlook, which included the following:

“According to CBO’s projections, the recovery from the economic downturn will continue at a modest pace during the next few years. Growth in the nation’s output since the middle of calendar year 2009 has been anemic in comparison with that of previous recoveries following deep recessions, and the unemployment rate has remained quite high… .

“The considerable number of vacant houses and underused factories and offices will be a continuing drag on residential construction and business investment, and slow income growth as well as lost wealth will restrain consumer spending.”

By day’s end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 144 points (1.39 percent) and the S&P 500 was down 18.5 points (1.69 percent), in part because of the CBO’s bleak forecast.

Reactions to the CBO’s analysis don’t seem to bother Elmendorf, whom The New York Times has described as “mild-mannered” and “cautious to a fault.” “I get e-mail messages and read blog postings that think I’m a brilliant hero,” he told the Times in November 2009, “and I also get blog postings and e-mail messages that think I’m a stupid traitor, and I’ve learned to let that roll off my back.”

Elmendorf, a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton’s economics department who quoted John Maynard Keynes in his yearbook entry, served as senior fellow in the economic studies program at the Brookings Institution before taking over as head of the CBO in January 2009. Before that, he was an assistant professor at Harvard, a principal analyst at the CBO, and a senior economist at the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

(Photo courtesy the Congressional Budget Office)

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