Senator John Heinz

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The Heinz Awards

2008

Robert Greenstein

Robert Greenstein receives the Heinz Award in Public Policy for his sometimes solitary voice advocating for America's low-income families.

As the founding Executive Director of the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Robert Greenstein is a universally respected advocate for the nation's low- and moderate-income families in matters related to the federal budget. A former federal administrator, he has earned a reputation as a strong, honest and highly effective voice on behalf of many Americans whose voice in Washington is often muted within the corridors of power.

As the founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Center, which analyzes the impact of federal and state budget and tax initiatives on the country's low- and moderate-income people, Mr. Greenstein has served as a thoughtful and persuasive advocate. Respected on both sides of the political aisle, he is widely viewed as an unbiased, authoritative expert on a range of fiscal policy and poverty issues, and his work has helped improve the economic outlook of millions of America's poorer citizens.

Before creating the center in 1981, Mr. Greenstein served as administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he oversaw the Food Stamp program, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and the school lunch and other child nutrition programs.

Named by National Journal as one of the "most influential people affecting policy," Mr. Greenstein has played a significant role in a broad array of federal initiatives. Among his signature accomplishments, he helped over two decades to significantly expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income working families - which increasingly lifts more children out of poverty than any other federal program - while organizing (through the center) a national effort to ensure that eligible families know about the credit and apply for it.

The center's work extends far beyond Washington. It works extensively on fiscal policy and poverty issues on the state level, and it helps non-profit groups in developing countries and new democracies promote open debates on budget priorities, especially a budget's impact on the poor. The 2007 book, Forces for Good, listed the center as one of the 12 "most successful non-profits founded in recent U.S. history."

For close to three decades, Robert Greenstein has been holding the federal government accountable for decisions that affect our nation's low-income families and has earned a reputation among both parties as an honest, objective, thorough and credible source of information, particularly within a polarized political climate. Through his Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, he has established nothing less than a fourth branch of government, one that is invaluable to ensuring that the interests of all Americans are protected.

Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.


UPDATES SINCE RECEIVING THE HEINZ AWARD

May 2010 - The 2010 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize was presented to Robert Greenstein, founder and executive director of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, at a dinner ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, DC, on May 13, 2010. The $20,000 prize was created by the American Academy of Political and Social Science to recognize civic leaders who champion the use of evidence and informed judgment in the policy process. - American Society for Political and Social Science

Speech

10/21/2008 - Acceptance Speech

Thank you all very much.  Thank you, in particular, Teresa Heinz and the Heinz Family Foundation.  I am deeply honored and moved.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to many people who guided me and helped me along the way; and most of all to my extraordinary colleagues at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a number of whom you saw in that film.  What the film itself can't capture is that these people are a brilliant and exceedingly dedicated group of individuals, who work extremely hard every day to fashion and improve public policies to reduce poverty and inequality and to foster fiscal responsibility for the sake of future generations.  I have the great privilege of directing this amazing group of people who consistently make me look better than I really am.

Unfortunately, as we gather here today, we have a wonderful time celebrating these awards today; but as everyone in the room knows, we face multiple, serious crises as a nation.  We have a presidential election in a couple of weeks and whoever wins is going to face probably the toughest set of problems, of any president taking office, since FDR took office in 1933.  A world financial crisis; what's likely to be the deepest recession in at least a quarter-century; record deficits and debt; levels of poverty, unusual for a Western industrialized nation and particularly shocking for the richest nation in world history; probably the widest inequality in this country since 1929; 46 million people without health insurance and that figure is from last year before the recession started and the number's now climbing.  And, last but certainly not least, in fact should probably head the list: global warming.

We're very much going to need to address these problems effectively.  And to do that, we need to do it in ways that take into account the needs of the less fortunate and the less powerful both at home and abroad.  How to get there from here, well we're going to need wise, strong, courageous leaders who rise above ideology and work in a bipartisan way.  And that's what makes this award, so special to me.  It's established to honor the memory of just such a leader, Senator John Heinz.  Looking at these problems that come ahead, we really miss him.  To navigate the very rough seas that lie ahead for our nation, we're badly going to need leaders like him more than ever.

Thank you again.  I greatly appreciate this honor.

Robert Greenstein
Robert Greenstein