When President William Jefferson Clinton swore in Robert E. Rubin (b. 1938) as the 70th Secretary of the Treasury, he was already one of the most knowledgeable and best prepared leaders of finance to assume the office. Before entering public service, Mr. Rubin worked for twenty-six years at Goldman Sachs & Co., one of Wall Street’s venerable investment firms, where he rose to the position of Co-Chairman. He was originally appointed by President Clinton to be Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and to serve as the nation’s first director of the National Economic Council (1993-1995), which coordinated Administration economic policy throughout the Clinton administration. With his vast experience in financial markets and collegial temperament, he helped President Clinton, and his economic team developed an economic policy based on vigorous deficit reduction, global open markets, and investments in education, training and the environment. This program helped to spark and sustain the longest economic expansion in the nation’s history to date, transforming the nation’s budgetary position from deficit to surplus, and produce the lowest national rates of unemployment in decades.
After succeeding Lloyd Bentsen as Treasury Secretary, Mr. Rubin faced threats to the nation’s creditworthiness and to the stability of the global financial system. Secretary Rubin used his statutory authority to safeguard the Federal government’s finances and make timely payments of the Federal debt when the Congress did not raise the debt limit during an extensive budgetary confrontation. During his tenure, financial crises flared in Mexico and Asia posing real risks to global financial stability. Secretary Rubin led efforts–with the IMF, Federal Reserve and others–that contained both disruptions, stopping both crises from overwhelming the global financial system, protecting the American economic expansion, and spurring Mexico and Asia toward economic recovery.
Mr. Rubin’s tenure at Treasury was extraordinarily varied. He spoke out about growing "interdependence" among nations and urged Americans to appreciate the benefits of increasing economic integration in the post-Cold War era. He worked forcefully throughout his tenure for fiscal discipline and open trade, while strongly advocating policies to provide greater skills and support for workers and low income Americans, particularly in the inner city. He strongly supported aid for developing nations and acted to reform the architecture of the global financial system. He worked to reform the IRS and for financial modernization. He also championed the priorities of Treasury’s law enforcement agencies, including policies to redesign the nation’s currency to thwart counterfeiting, decrease the accessibility of guns to former felons and to minors, enhance Presidential security, interdict drugs at US borders, and combat money laundering. Upon Mr. Rubin’s retirement, President Clinton called him the "greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton."
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