Alice M. Rivlin was a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, Director of the Greater Washington Research project, and a Visiting Professor at the Public Policy Institute of Georgetown University.
An expert on fiscal and monetary policy, social policy, and urban issues, Rivlin was appointed as Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation for the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1968. In 1975, she was tapped to found the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and she served as its director until 1983, creating a structure that continues to serve as an independent institution guiding Congressional action on spending and revenue legislation through high-quality, nonpartisan work. She was director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 1994 to 1996, helping to transform a budget deficit of more than $200 billion into a substantial surplus by the end of the decade. In 1995, she was also appointed director of the District of Columbia Financial Assistance Authority, created by Congress to help Washington, D.C., recover from a financial crisis. Rivlin served as the vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board from 1996 to 1999, where she played an instrumental role in designing monetary policy.
In 2010, Rivlin, along with former Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), was named co-chair of the Debt Reduction Task Force sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C. The task force was formed to recommend policies to reverse the United States’ national debt. In that year, she was she was also named to the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (familiarly known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission).
In receiving the 2002 Elliot L. Richardson Prize for Excellence in Public Service, Rivlin was cited for displaying “a life-long fascination with the application of rigorous analysis to public policy decision-making” and for her “intellectual force, hard work, and personal courage” in advancing major improvements in public administration at the national and local levels. In 2004, she was lauded by Roger W. Ferguson, then Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board, as having “maintained the trust and confidence of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, everyone and everybody.” In 2008, she was named one of the greatest public servants of the previous 25 years by the Council for Excellence in Government.
Rivlin received a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship in 1983. She taught at Harvard, George Mason, and New School universities. Rivlin was the author of Systematic Thinking for Social Action (1971), which argues for using policy analysis to improve the effectiveness of social programs. In Reviving the American Dream: The Economy, the States, and the Federal Government (1992), Rivlin laid out a plan for long-term economic improvement in the United States. She was also co-author (with Robert Litan) of Beyond the Dot.coms (2001), exploring the Internet’s impact on productivity. Rivlin was co-editor of the Restoring Fiscal Sanity series: Restoring Fiscal Sanity: How to Balance the Budget (2004, with Isabel Sawhill) Restoring Fiscal Sanity 2005: Meeting the Long-Run Challenges (with Isabel Sawhill), and Restoring Fiscal Sanity 2007: The Health Spending Challenge (with Joseph Antos), as well as of The Economic Payoff from the Internet Revolution (2001, with Robert Litan). In 2007, she authored “Slowing the Growth of Health Spending: We Need Mixed Strategies, and We Need to Start Now,” and in 2008, “Envisioning Opportunity: Three Options for a Community College in Washington, D.C.”