Across the significant leadership roles and responsibilities Robert D. Reischauer has held, he has been steadfastly committed to the principles of social insurance and to promoting economic security for all Americans. Like Bob Ball, Reischauer’s pragmatic approach and insights have helped policymakers adapt U.S. social insurance programs to respond to emerging challenges. He continues to be one of this country’s foremost public policy analysts and commentators.
“I've had the privilege of knowing and working with Bob for many years — through NASI, as well as serving together on the Board of Directors of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and in other areas of public service,” said Kenneth Apfel, Director of the Management, Finance and Leadership Program at the University of Maryland, and former NASI Board Chair. “He is undoubtedly one of the most prominent and widely respected leaders in the field of social insurance. Bob has helped our policymakers, our country, navigate many difficult challenges. His thoughtful tenacity and ability to work with all parties, coupled with his emphasis on evidence-based policy research, has helped to advance and strengthen our social insurance programs so that Americans can enjoy a greater degree of economic security. That he has served in so many different capacities is testament to his nuanced grasp of major policy issues and his intellectual curiosity, as well as his energy and charisma. I know Bob will continue to make great contributions to the field of social insurance.”
Currently, Reischauer is President emeritus of the Urban Institute. He first joined the Institute as a Senior Vice President, serving from 1981 to 1986. He returned in 2000 to serve as President and continued to lead the Institute for over twelve years. As President, Reischauer fostered and expanded the Institute’s work on retirement, healthcare, and tax policy, and on the conditions of the nation’s low-income and working people. His leadership saw the Institute grow to become a premiere source of analyses on issues involving Social Security, Medicare, and health coverage.
Reischauer helped mold the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) into a reliable and indispensable institution. Working closely with Alice Rivlin, first director of the CBO, Reischauer served as Assistant Director for Human Resources and Community Development, then as Deputy Director under Rivlin from 1977 to 1981. In 1989, Reischauer returned to the CBO to serve as Director and led the agency until 1995. During his tenure as Director, Reischauer oversaw a vast array of CBO work on health care reform and Social Security.
In addition to leading the Urban Institute and the CBO, Reischauer was a Senior Fellow of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution from 1986 to 1989, and from 1995 until 2000, when he left to become President of the Urban Institute. Reischauer oversaw the establishment of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center during his tenure as President of the Urban Institute. He continues to be a member of the advisory committee to the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project. Among his numerous writings while working as a Senior Fellow at Brookings, Reischauer co-authored (with Henry Aaron) Countdown to Reform: The Great Social Security Debate. The book vigorously refuted the view that Social Security was unaffordable, and is mentioned in Bob Ball’s oral history on the SSA website.
Reischauer’s extensive writings and commentary on federal budget policy, healthcare, Social Security, social welfare issues, education, and state and local fiscal challenges have been widely cited. He has testified frequently before Congress, and national media outlets regularly turn to him to help explain the implications of developments across the public policy landscape.
Public service in the realm of social insurance continues to be Reischauer’s primary occupation. From 2000 to 2009, he served on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and provided leadership as vice chair from 2001-2008. In 2009, President Obama nominated Reischauer to serve a four-year term as one of two public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. The Senate confirmed Reischauer, along with Chuck Blauhaus as the other public trustee, in 2010.
Widely sought for his deep expertise and balanced approached, Reischauer serves on several nonprofit boards including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Academy of Political Science. He is a Senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation, the university’s board of trustees.
A founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), Reischauer has contributed in numerous ways to NASI’s mission and programs. He served as a co-chair of NASI’s ninth annual conference, “Medicare: Preparing for the Challenges of the 21st Century” (held in January 1997). He also chaired NASI’s 20-member steering committee on “Restructuring Medicare for the Long Term”. A comprehensive report issued in 2000, Restructuring Medicare: Next Steps, provides an overview of the work of the first four study panels convened under the “Restructuring Medicare for the Long Term” project. Reischauer continues to serve as a volunteer commentator on NASI’s Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports.
One of the most prominent voices for social insurance issues, Reischauer became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. He is also a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and a member of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academies. Reischauer holds an A.B. in political science from Harvard University and an M.I.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University.
Notwithstanding advice from more sensible members of his family, Reischauer still plays hockey with an aging group of ice warriors every Sunday night. On his farm on Prince Edward Island, Canada, he grows soybeans.
Reischauer received the 2012 Robert M. Ball Award at a reception on June 20, 2012 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.