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Paul Henry O'Neill (born December 4, 1935) served as the 72nd United States Secretary of the Treasury for part of President George W. Bush's first term. He resigned in December 2002 under pressure from the administration and became a harsh critic. Prior to his term as Secretary of the Treasury, O'Neill was chairman and CEO of Pittsburghmarker-based industrial giant Alcoa and chairman of the RAND Corporation.

History

Early History

O'Neill was born in St. Louis, Missourimarker, although his "hometown" and current residence is Pittsburghmarker. He met his wife at Anchorage High Schoolmarker in Anchorage, Alaskamarker, from which they both graduated in 1954. He lived on the military base there with his parents. He received a bachelor's degree in Economics from California State University, Fresnomarker a degree in economics from Claremont Graduate Universitymarker in 1961, and a Master of Public Administration from Indiana Universitymarker. O'Neill and his wife Nancy have four children and 12 grandchildren.

He began his public service as a computer systems analyst with the Veterans Administrationmarker, where he served from 1961 to 1966. He joined the United States Office of Management and Budget in 1967, and was deputy director of OMB from 1974 to 1977.

Private Sector

After President Gerald Ford lost the 1976 election, O'Neill took an executive job at International Paper in New York Citymarker. He was vice president of the company from 1977 to 1985 and president from 1985 to 1987.

In 1988, he was approached by President George H. W. Bush to be Secretary of Defense. O'Neill declined, but recommended Dick Cheney for the position. Bush then pursued O'Neill to chair an advisory group on education that included Lamar Alexander, Bill Brock, and Richard Riley. Under O'Neill's leadership, the group recommended national standards and unified testing standards.

O'Neill was chairman and CEO of the Pittsburgh industrial giant Alcoa from 1987 to 1999, and retired as chairman at the end of 2000. His reign was extremely successful, as the company's revenues increased from $1.5 billion in 1987 to $23 billion in 2000 and O'Neill's personal fortune grew to $60 million.

In 1995, O'Neill was made chairman of the RAND Corporation.

Community Service Career

In December 1997, O'Neill together with Karen Wolk Feinstein, President of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, founded the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI). They assembled a wide-ranging coalition of healthcare interests to begin to address the problems of healthcare, as a region. PRHI adapted the principles of the Toyota Production System into the "Perfecting Patient Care" system. Mr. O'Neill became a leader locally and nationally in addressing issues of patient safety and quality in healthcare.

O'Neill was also pegged by Mayor Tom Murphy as a co-leader of Pittsburgh's Riverlife Task Force, along with the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the time, John G. Craig Jr.

In 2005, O'Neill entered closed-door meetings with the Pittsburgh Gambling Task Force to help them reach a "no-endorsement" stance on what casino to recommend. (News from June 1, 2006)

O'Neill is also a member of Carnegie Mellonmarker's Heinz College's Dean's Advisory Council.

Bush Administration

Official portrait as Secretary of the Treasury
O'Neill was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by George W. Bush. O'Neill was a somewhat outspoken member of the administration, often saying things to the press that went against the administration's party line, and doing unusual things like taking a tour of Africa with singer Bono.

A report commissioned in 2002 by O'Neill, while he was Treasury Secretary, suggested the United States faced future federal budget deficits of more than US$ 500 billion. The report also suggested that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts, or both would be unavoidable if the United States were to meet benefit promises to its future generations. The study estimated that closing the budget gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 percent across-the-board income tax increase. The Bush administration left the findings out of the 2004 annual budget report published in February 2003.

O'Neill's private feuds with Bush's tax cut policies and his push to further investigate alleged al-Qaeda funding from some American-allied countries, as well as his objection to the invasion of Iraq in the name of the war on terror — that he considered as nothing but a simple excuse for a war decided long before by neoconservative elements of the first Bush Administration — led to his resignation in 2002 and replacement with John W. Snow.

Book: The Price of Loyalty

The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill (ISBN 0-7432-5545-3), a 2004 book, described the Bush administration during O'Neill's tenure. Written by former Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind, the book says Bush's economic policies were irresponsible, Bush was unquestioning and uncurious, and the war in Iraq was planned from the first National Security Council meeting, soon after the administration took office, even though Bush had promised not to engage in nation building during his campaign.

Comments and views

In a July 25, 2001 International Herald Tribune article, he shared a comment on the theory of an inevitable financial "contagion" in global financial markets and the theory that investors at the time would retreat from emerging markets because of their worries that the financial crises in Argentinamarker and Turkeymarker may spread to Brazilmarker and elsewhere. Mr. O'Neill said that this view was a "fashion" and that "we need to retire that fashion like the hula hoop." "With a magnifying glass, you couldn't find a connection between Turkey and Argentina, except maybe in people's minds", and that in a well-managed global system, investors would not pull back from loans in emerging markets simply because of such isolated troubles.

In an October 16th, 2007 Op Ed published in the New York Times, he wrote of the reluctance among politicians to address comprehensive reform in the U.S. health care system. In the opinion, he suggested, among other things, requiring doctors and hospitals to report medical errors within 24 hours, as well as moving malpractice suits out of the civil courts and into a new, independent body. Health care reform, he argues, cannot continue to progress in a piecemeal fashion. Instead, it must take all aspects of the problem—insurance coverage, medical costs, quality of care and information technology—into simultaneous consideration.

References

  1. http://www.prhi.org
  2. http://www.prhi.org/ppc.cfm
  3. http://www.modernhealthcare.com/page.cms?pageId=1063
  4. http://www.heinz.cmu.edu/reunion/default.html
  5. Ron Suskind, George W. Bush and the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB Alex Koppelman, Salon, June 20, 2006
  6. Bush decided to remove Saddam 'on day one' Julian Borger, The Guardian, January 12, 2004



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