UI professor nominated by Bush for public board of trustees

By Paolo Cisneros

Professor of Finance Jeffrey Brown has been nominated by President Bush to serve on the board of trustees for the national Social Security and Medicare programs.

The board is comprised of the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human services, the commissioner of Social Security and two public trustees, one Democrat and one Republican.

Pending Senate approval, Brown will serve a four-year term as the Republican trustee.

The role of the board is to monitor and analyze the financial status of their respective programs, in addition to educating the public about their funding, Brown said.

Another important function of the board is to publish an annual report on the state of Social Security and Medicare.

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“It’s a pretty influential and widely read report in Washington,” he said. “These reports provide the official state of health of these two programs.”

Brown, who has worked at the University since 2002, is no stranger to Washington, D.C.

In 2001 and 2002, he served as a senior economist on the council of economic advisors at the White House. Also in 2001, he was on staff at the President’s commission to strengthen Social Security. In 2005, the same year he traveled with President Bush to promote social security reform, he was nominated by the president as a member of the Social Security Advisory Board. He was confirmed by the Senate in 2006.

His newest assignment came about as a result of his experience in the field.

“The White House Office of Presidential Personnel finds the candidates for any presidential appointment, although the final decision rests with the President,” Brown said. “There are a number of ways I could have come up.”

The opportunity to work so closely to Social Security and Medicare was an honor, Brown added.

“There really are no more important federal programs in terms of their budgetary impact and in terms of their effect on almost everyone in the country,” he said. “They both face very significant long-term financial challenges. Fixing these problems is going to require some very difficult decisions.”

Tracy McCabe, assistant dean for external and alumni affairs in the College of Business, said Brown’s nomination is well deserved.

“In his tenure at Illinois, Jeff Brown has brought a lot of recognition and esteem to the University in terms of knowledge and experience,” he said. “Besides being a fantastic researcher, he’s well known for being someone who can relate to and understand the political processes in Washington.”

Scott Weisbenner, associate professor of finance, has known Brown since the two were graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Brown’s new position, he said, will help strengthen the reputation of the University.

“You really can’t think of two more important public policy issues than Social Security and Medicare,” he said. “It puts U of I right front and center in this debate.”

If confirmed, Brown will continue his work at the University.

“If anything, I think it will enrich my research and enrich my teaching,” he said.

Regardless of how the position affects his full-time career, Brown said he was humbled by the nomination.

“It’s always an honor to even be considered for a position like this,” he said. “I feel like this is an area I have built up a tremendous expertise in, but even so it’s a tremendous responsibility.”