First, make history, then make policy. Sworn in last month as a member of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, Kristin Forbes, 33, is the youngest person ever appointed to one of Washington's top economic policymaking posts. Forbes, who describes herself as a moderate Republican, is hardly a newcomer to the Bush administration, however. In 2001 she took a leave from MIT, where she had earned her Ph.D. in international and development economics and was teaching at the Sloan School of Management, to join the U.S. Treasury as deputy assistant secretary for quantitative policy analysis and Latin American and Caribbean nations.
She returned to MIT last year and expected to stay put. But then came an invitation to meet with CEA chief Greg Mankiw, National Economic Council head Steve Friedman and thenWhite House deputy chief of staff for policy (now OMB director) Josh Bolten, followed by word that she'd gotten the job. "I never thought it would happen," Forbes says. "I thought maybe in 20 years it would be wonderful to come back."
The former Williams College tennis star is likely to get a workout at the CEA. She'll be contending with the soaring U.S. current-account deficit and the collapse of trade negotiations, not to mention rising tensions with China over textile exports and with other trading partners over steel tariffs.
"In promoting free trade, there are always different groups hurt in the transition," Forbes points out. "I still believe that most members of this administration recognize the benefits of free trade." Nonetheless, she had a hand in preparing her boss's testimony to Congress indirectly criticizing the textile quotas.