Photo: Jim Harrison
14th Heinz Awards - 2008
Robert Greenstein received the 14th 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 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 nonprofit 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 nonprofits 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 was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.