Paul H. O'Neill

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Paul O'Neill
72nd United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
January 20, 2001 – December 31, 2002
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byLawrence Summers
Succeeded byJohn W. Snow
Personal details
Paul Henry O'Neill

(1935-12-04) December 4, 1935 (age 84)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Nancy O'Neill
EducationCalifornia State University, Fresno (BA)
Claremont Graduate University
Indiana University Bloomington (MPA)

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, from January 2001 to December 2002.[1] He was fired in December 2002 for his public disagreement with the administration.[2] Prior to his term as Secretary of the Treasury, O'Neill was chairman and CEO of Pittsburgh-based industrial giant Alcoa and chairman of the RAND Corporation.


Early history[edit]

O'Neill was born in St. Louis, Missouri and currently resides in Pittsburgh. He met his wife at Anchorage High School in Anchorage, Alaska, 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, Fresno, studied economics at Claremont Graduate University in 1961, and received a Master of Public Administration from Indiana University. O'Neill and his wife Nancy Jo have four children, 12 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren.

He began his public service as a computer systems analyst with the Veterans Administration, 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[edit]

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

In 1989, 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.

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. At the beginning of his tenure O'Neill encountered significant resistance from the Board of Directors due to his stance on prioritizing worker safety. The company's market value increased from $3 billion in 1986 to $27.53 billion in 2000, while net income increased from $200 million to $1.484 billion.[3]

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

Community service career[edit]

In December 1997, O'Neill together with Karen Wolk Feinstein, President of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, founded the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI).[4] 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.[5] O'Neill became a leader locally and nationally in addressing issues of patient safety and quality in healthcare.[6]

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

O'Neill is also a member of Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College's Dean's Advisory Council.[7] In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.[8]

Bush Administration[edit]

Official portrait as Secretary of the Treasury

Ron Suskind interviewed O'Neill extensively about his tenure in the Bush Administration. He was also given access to a large amount of documentation. In 2004 he produced the book The Price of Loyalty, detailing O'Neill's tenure in the Bush Administration.[9] The book describes many of the conflicts that O'Neill had with the Bush administration. The book also details O'Neill's criticisms of some of Bush's economic policies. O'Neill claims that Bush appeared somewhat unquestioning and uncurious, and that the war in Iraq was planned from the first National Security Council meeting, soon after the administration took office. At the first cabinet meeting of the new Bush administration, O'Neill observed that the debate was not "should we attack Iraq?" but rather "how do we go about attacking Iraq?" O'Neill viewed this as a violation of earlier guarantees that (then-presidential candidate) Bush would refrain from nation building endeavors during his time in office.[10][11]

Comments and views[edit]

In an October 16, 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 that doctors and hospitals should be required to report medical errors within 24 hours, as well as moving malpractice suits out of the civil courts and into a new, independent body. He also felt that health care reform had to acknowledge all aspects of the problem, such as insurance coverage, medical costs, quality of care, and information technology.[12]

In April 2016, he was one of eight former Treasury secretaries who called on the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union ahead of the June 2016 Referendum.[13]


  1. ^ "Paul H. O'Neill (2001 - 2002)". U.S. Department of the Treasury. Retrieved 2019-07-26.
  2. ^ Bush Sought ‘Way’ To Invade Iraq? Rebecca Leung, 60 Minutes, January 11, 2004
  3. ^ The Power of Habit: why we do what we do in life and business Charles Duhigg - Random House -(ISBN 978-0812981605) 2012
  4. ^ "History of Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative". Retrieved 2016-01-13.
  5. ^ "Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative: A Systems Approach For Achieving Perfect Patient Care".
  6. ^ "Paul H. O'Neill - National Patient Safety Foundation".
  7. ^ "President's Global Advisory Council". Retrieved 2016-01-13.
  8. ^ "Board Members". Retrieved 2019-10-06.
  9. ^ The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill (ISBN 0-7432-5545-3) 2004
  10. ^ Ron Suskind, George W. Bush and the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB Alex Koppelman, Salon, June 20, 2006
  11. ^ Bush decided to remove Saddam 'on day one' Julian Borger, The Guardian, January 12, 2004
  12. ^ O'Neill, Paul (October 16, 2007). "OP-ED contributor; A Health Care Bargain". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Staying in EU 'best hope' for UK's future say ex-US Treasury secretaries". BBC News. April 20, 2016.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lawrence Summers
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: George W. Bush

Succeeded by
John W. Snow