Paul W. McCracken dies; economic adviser to presidents was 96


In this photo from Jan. 23, 1969, President Richard Nixon, second from left, poses at the White House in Washington with four government officials he named as his economic “Quadriad,” including Chairman Paul McCracken of the Council of Economic Advisers, at far right. McCracken, a former economic adviser to several U.S. presidents, died Aug. 3, 2012, at age 96. (Harvey Georges/AP)
August 5, 2012

Paul W. McCracken, a former economic adviser to several U.S. presidents, died Aug. 3 in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 96.

His death was announced by the University of Michigan, where he was a professor emeritus of business administration, economics and public policy. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Dr. McCracken was a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisers and later chaired the council under President Richard M. Nixon. According to the University of Michigan, Nixon once wrote that during his first term he depended on Dr. McCracken “for his incisive intellect and his hard-headed pragmatism.”

“He was a key adviser during a crucial time in our nation’s history,” Nixon wrote in 1985.

Dr. McCracken recalled his appointment in an interview last year with the business school’s alumni magazine.

“After Nixon won the election, the press started guessing who was going to get what job, and my name was mentioned as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers,” he said. “A guy with The Washington Post and I had become pretty well acquainted, and he called me up and said, ‘I hear your name mentioned frequently. Is it real?’ I said, ‘I have no idea.’ ”

Dr. McCracken went on to say that Nixon called him the next day and that he flew to New York to meet him. When Nixon offered him the job, Dr. McCracken said he wanted to discuss it with his wife.

“Nixon and I talked a while longer and he said, ‘You know, I have a press conference coming up in about 20 minutes, and I don’t have anything to tell them. Why don’t we just announce it?’ . . . So I said, ‘Well, okay. I guess my wife can find out about it on the news,’ ” Dr. McCracken said.

Between the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, Dr. McCracken served on a domestic economic task force under President John F. Kennedy and on the Commission on Budget Concepts for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Dr. McCracken resigned from the Council of Economic Advisers in late 1971. By that time, he and Nixon had disagreed over price and wage controls.

“I thought price controls were a bad idea for a very simple reason. You couldn’t look back into history and point to a success story,” Dr. McCracken said. “At the time, the president and Congress were involved in a battle in the political domain. Political battles are often more important to them than hard, solid data.”

Dr. McCracken later served as senior consultant to Treasury Secretary William E. Simon in 1974 and 1975 and chaired the International Committee of Economists and the Academic Advisory Board for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, according to the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Paul Winston McCracken was born Dec. 29, 1915, in Richland, Iowa. He was a 1937 graduate of what is now William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He received a master’s degree in 1942 and a doctorate in 1948, both from Harvard University and both in economics.

He worked as an economist and research director for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis before joining the University of Michigan. He retired from teaching in 1986.

His wife of 63 years, Emily Ruth Siler McCracken, died in 2005. Survivors include two daughters, Linda Langer and Paula McCracken.

— From staff and wire reports

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