Murray Weidenbaum Dies; Leading Conservative Economist Taught Students at Washington U., Served Five U.S. Presidents

By Sorkin, Michael D | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 22, 2014 | Go to article overview

Murray Weidenbaum Dies; Leading Conservative Economist Taught Students at Washington U., Served Five U.S. Presidents


Sorkin, Michael D, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Murray Weidenbaum taught students at Washington University and presidents in the White House that government should get out of the way and let people and businesses work as hard as they can to achieve as much as they can.

He preached deregulation, and his syndicated newspaper columns caught the eye of Ronald Reagan, who in 1980 was running for president. Reagan took Professor Weidenbaum to the White House as his top economic adviser.

At first, they used tax cuts to fight high unemployment and inflation. But when Reagan later pushed massive increases in the military budget, Professor Weidenbaum quietly tendered his resignation, returned to St. Louis and resumed his 50-year career at Washington University.

A soft-spoken man, Professor Weidenbaum never would have openly contradicted the president.

But he believed in balanced budgets and said the revenue numbers didn't support Reagan's increased spending.

"I can't justify that," his son, Jim Weidenbaum, recalled him saying. "It's not right for the country."

Professor Weidenbaum continued to teach at Washington University's Weidenbaum Center on the economy, government and public policy until three weeks ago.

That's when he was found unconscious at his home in Clayton. He died Thursday (March 20, 2014) at Barnes-Jewish Hospital after several surgeries followed by an infection, a friend and colleague said.

He was 87.

Professor Weidenbaum served five U.S. Presidents.

He first went to work for President Harry S Truman, in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building, where he later became chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Reagan. He continued working for the White House through the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Professor Weidenbaum believed that economic policy should be based upon facts, not ideology. He was an expert in the nuts and bolts of federal budgets.

"If the benefits outweigh the costs, great," he said. "If the costs outweigh the benefits, maybe you should take another look at the benefits."

Steven Smith, director of the Weidenbaum Center, called him "a modest conservative, not necessarily a moderate conservative."

"He didn't buy into the theory championed by some conservatives of bankrupting government in order to reduce it," Smith said.

Murray Lew Weidenbaum was born in the Bronx and reared in Brooklyn, N.Y. His grandfather sharpened knives for a living and his father drove a taxi and owned a neighborhood market. …

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