2010 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: Political Science and Economics
Age: 34 | Alexandria, Virginia
Lead Federal Budget Analyst at the Heritage Foundation
"I was drawn to the UW's famous legacy of passionate political activism and debate."
While many people dread the mere thought of doing their taxes, for Brian Riedl, thinking about taxes is something he loves to do ... when he's not pondering spending and deficits, that is. What else would you expect from the lead budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, the largest think tank in Washington, D.C.?
In his position, Riedl exposed the United States Senate's attempt in 2006 to add $14 billion in irresponsible domestic spending (including a "railroad to nowhere" in Mississippi) to an Iraq funding bill. The media coverage he received for shedding light on this unrelated spending created a public backlash that forced Congress to strip the $14 billion from the bill.
That's just one example of how Riedl has made an impact on the way the federal government manages our money. From being the first conservative budget analyst to break with President George W. Bush on runaway spending in 2002, to playing a key role in today's economic debates going on in the White House and Congress, Riedl has established himself as a national leader on tax and spending issues.
In fact, Riedl's federal budget research has been featured in front-page stories and editorials in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. He's also discussed policy on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
And even though Riedl considers himself a committed libertarian/conservative, he credits UW-Madison for forcing him to question his beliefs, and teaching him how to reason, argue, and debate in an intellectually challenging environment. "The UW built character by providing a strong activist environment where I was in the political minority," Riedl says.
Instead of butting heads with those he didn't see eye-to-eye with on campus, he sought to build bridges by listening, reading, and gaining an understanding of how others approached politics. "I got to know the leaders of more liberal campus organizations," he says. "And we discovered a lot of common ground in our beliefs."
That search for common ground is now serving him well in Washington. "This approach has made me popular even with Democratic congressional offices and liberal think tanks," Riedl says.
Along with educating the White House, Congress and the media about tax and spending issues, Riedl travels the country to educate the American people on the need for Social Security and Medicare reform as part of the bipartisan "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour."