When the President Calls

When the President Calls

Conversations with Economic Policymakers

By Simon W. Bowmaker

Foreword by Minouche Shafik

Interviews with thirty-five economic policymakers who advised presidents from Nixon to Trump.





Interviews with thirty-five economic policymakers who advised presidents from Nixon to Trump.

What is it like to sit in the Oval Office and discuss policy with the president? To know that the decisions made will affect hundreds of millions of people? To know that the wrong advice could be calamitous? When the President Calls presents interviews with thirty-five economic policymakers who served presidents from Nixon to Trump. These officials worked in the executive branch in a variety of capacities—the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of the Treasury, and the National Economic Council—but all had direct access to the policymaking process and can offer insights about the difficult tradeoffs made on economic policy. The interviews shed new light, for example, on the thinking behind the Reagan tax cuts, the economic factors that cost George H. W. Bush a second term, the constraints facing policymakers during the financial crisis of 2008, the differences in work styles between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and the Trump administration's early budget process.

When the President Calls offers a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective on US economic policymaking, with specific and personal detail—the turmoil, the personality clashes, the enormous pressure of trying to do the right thing while the clock is ticking.

Interviews withNicholas F. Brady, Lael Brainard, W. Michael Blumenthal, Michael J. Boskin, Stuart E. Eizenstat, Martin S. Feldstein, Stephen Friedman, Jason Furman, Austan D. Goolsbee, Alan Greenspan, Kevin A. Hassett, R. Glenn Hubbard, Alan B. Krueger, Arthur B. Laffer, Edward P. Lazear, Jacob J. Lew, N. Gregory Mankiw, David C. Mulford, John Michael Mulvaney, Paul H. O'Neill, Peter R. Orszag, Henry M. Paulson, Alice M. Rivlin, Harvey S. Rosen, Robert E. Rubin, George P. Shultz, Charles L. Schultze, John W. Snow, Gene B. Sperling, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Lawrence H. Summers, John B. Taylor, Paul A. Volcker, Murray L. Weidenbaum, Janet L. Yellen


$34.95 T ISBN: 9780262043113 688 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 76 figures


Minouche Shafik.


  • If you want the inside skinny on what happens at White House economics meetings, then this is the book for you.


  • What Bowmaker's work reveals is as bizarre as anything you'd expect from Capitol Hill, even now.


  • ...thoughtful, timely...


  • This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in economic policy.


  • A damn fun read...As far as the history of economic policymaking over the last 50 years, the book is an indispensable source. And for the economic policymaker news junkie, there is no book that comes close to giving you the insight into policy decisions that this book does. It is an important contribution to US economic policy history from the Nixon years to the early Trump years.

    Economic Policy Journal


  • In this extraordinary book, thirty-five economic advisers to presidents, spanning administrations from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump, explain from first-hand experience how decisions are made in the Oval Office. Readers of their accounts will acquire a deep understanding of policy formulation and be much entertained in the process.

    Barry J. Eichengreen

    George C. Pardee & Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

  • What makes a good economic adviser to the president? Discover for yourself in 35 revealing interviews with top officials from Shultz to Summers and Greenspan to Goolsbee.

    Lord Mervyn King

    former Governor of the Bank of England

  • You don't have to be an economist to understand or want to read this book, because Bowmaker has skillfully obtained plain English explanations from some very smart people of how economic advice is constructed, and most importantly, how it is conveyed to the president. You'll enjoy it from beginning to end.

    Robert E. Litan

    author of Trillion Dollar Economists: How Economists and Their Ideas Have Transformed Business

  • Economic advisers to the president are just one of many voices in a process that can be unpredictable, even chaotic. The interviews featured in this book offer a fascinating window into that process, and how these 35 advisers navigated the challenges of politics and policy.

    Diane Coyle

    Bennett Professor of Public Policy, University of Cambridge

  • Simon Bowmaker's conversations with economic advisers to presidents from Nixon to Trump bring the history and economics of the past 50 years to life in the most accessible way.

    Chris Giles

    Economics Editor, Financial Times

  • Economic advisers must have one leg in academia, to know the state of the arts, and the other in real politics, to know what can actually be done. If you want to feel the pain and the excitement from doing such splits, read this great book and get the story directly from those who have done them.

    Olivier Blanchard

    former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund

  • In an era of tweets and impulsive decision-making, Simon Bowmaker reminds us of the need for experts in the design of sound economic policy.

    Jaime Serra Puche

    former finance minister of Mexico and lead negotiator of NAFTA

  • Having received my own Oval Office call nearly 20 years ago, this timely book not only took me back to yesterday, but it reveals important threads into how the economist has played the role of primary caretaker of the world's most formidable economy by constantly combating bad ideas.  The behind-the-scenes clashes and compromises are riveting by themselves, and will ensure you do not set the book down, yet the lessons of modern day policymaking make this book evergreen.

    John A. List

    Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

  • Through interviews with the economic advisers of US presidents, Simon Bowmaker shows vividly the challenges and opportunities of putting economics into practice. Fascinating insiders' accounts of how economic thinking meets political necessities and strong personalities at the coalface of policy.

    Niall Kishtainy

    author of A Little History of Economics

  • When the President Calls is an engaging and timely book. It should be made compulsory reading for anyone interested in learning from the men and women whose work in Washington has impacted our daily lives.”  

    Nouriel Roubini

    co-author of Crisis Economics

  • When the President Calls is an engaging and timely book. It should be made compulsory reading for anyone interested in learning from the men and women whose work in Washington has impacted our daily lives.

    Nouriel Roubini

    Professor of Economics and International Business, Stern School of Business, New York University