Boskin's "Flashlight"

Michael J. Boskin, 57, has had his share of troubles. Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George H.W. Bush, Boskin was nearly killed in February, 1999, when a car in which he was being driven was struck by a truck. He suffered a broken leg, elbow, and pelvis, and had to be patched together with three steel plates. But within a year, he was walking; now he is even back to skiing and tennis.

With his latest research, Boskin is also clearly back on top of his game when it comes to economics. In many ways Boskin, now at Stanford, is the Alan Greenspan of his generation.

Greenspan held key economic posts in the Ford and Reagan Administrations before becoming Fed chairman, and both Bush Presidents have similarly turned to Boskin, thanks to his reputation as a solid conservative economist. Boskin was a close adviser to George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign, yet he's no ideologue. Like Greenspan, Boskin commands deep respect from both sides of the political aisle.

What politicians admire most is the way Boskin excels at "bringing the flashlight of economics to shine on accounting issues," says MIT economist James M. Poterba. He did it most notably in 1996, when he chaired a blue-ribbon commission appointed by the Senate Finance Committee, which concluded that the consumer price index overstated inflation. His credentials -- he's a director of ExxonMobil (XOM ), Oracle (ORCL ), and Vodafone (VOD ) -- also win him kudos in the business community. No doubt, his new study will make him even more sought after and influential.

By Peter Coy in New York

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