Alan Unleashed
By Jon Birger

(MONEY Magazine) – Alan Greenspan was the difference maker when President Bush pushed his first round of tax cuts through Congress in 2001. What appeared back then to be a one-time legislative foray looks in hindsight like the official unleashing of Greenspan's inner conservative. The Federal Reserve chairman has been throwing himself into all kinds of thorny political debates lately--everything from the offshoring of U.S. jobs to the future of government-chartered mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He even danced on the third rail of American politics, calling on Congress to reduce benefits to keep Social Security solvent. "Usually the Fed lies low during an election year," says Alicia Munnell, a Boston College professor and former Fed economist. "I don't know why he's doing this, but it sure is interesting."

Greenspan's words carry clout in Washington, D.C., which is why so many senators clamor for him to testify before their committees. But the more he opens his mouth, the more he risks being dismissed as just another pol. After Greenspan called on Congress to rein in Fannie and Freddie, Sen. Paul Sarbanes didn't even feign deference. "He's not the only person around town with stature," the Maryland Democrat grumbled. Or consider the reaction--or lack thereof--to Greenspan's laissez-faire attitude toward the exporting of American jobs. "Attempting merely to preserve the comfortable features of the present, rather than reaching for new levels of prosperity, is a sure path to stagnation," he testified in March. White House economist N. Gregory Mankiw was tarred and feathered for saying much the same thing weeks earlier, yet Greenspan's comments went almost unnoticed. Then again, Greenspan seems to have something most workers don't--job security. President Bush has already pledged to renominate him in June for a fifth four-year term as chairman. --J.B.