Biography Michael J. Barron

Michael (Mike) Barron is the founder and Executive Director of the CIVPAC.

Mike was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His parents were, for the most part, the children of immigrants. They dropped out of high school to help their families during the Depression and viewed themselves as working class. His mother worked as a bookkeeper, his father as a railroad engineer.  His father was a World War II veteran and a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers. His parents voted for Democrats and Republicans.  Mike grew up in Greenfield, a working class neighborhood in Pittsburgh. 

Mike received his graduate and undergraduate degrees at the University of Maryland, where he studied Economics and Government and Politics as an undergraduate. In graduate school, in Economics, he specialized in Public Finance, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics, and Public Sector Choice.

He taught economics and statistics at the University of Maryland and Rutgers University.

Mike was a Senior Economist at the Department of Energy, in the Policy Office, focusing on energy security, oil and gas policy and deregulation issues during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

He moved from the government to the private sector in the 1980’s working in corporate strategic planning and finance roles for a number of firms including: Natomas, Diamond Shamrock, Maxus Energy and Atlantic Energy. He was, during this period, the Chief Economist for a Fortune 100 firm (Diamond Shamrock) and the Chief Financial Officer for two, publicly traded, Fortune 500 scale companies (Maxus and Atlantic Energy). He retired as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer from Atlantic Energy after overseeing the merger of that company with another.

Mike summarizes his political history as follows:

I became interested in politics and public policy, at the age of 13, when I entered a public speaking competition. This led to years of high school and college debate, which left me with the ability to see all sides of a question.

In high school, I started out as a socialist. It is hard to say why. Perhaps it was because, for the first time, I noticed the large disparities of wealth among my classmates. Perhaps it was my way of living out the aphorism that “anyone who is not a socialist as a young man has no heart, but anyone who remains one has no head.” In any case, by the time I graduated from high school I had abandoned socialism and matured into a Hubert Humphrey style Democrat, staunchly pro-civil rights and pro-equality of opportunity (I still hold those views). 

I started college in 1967 and the anti-war movement was at its height. By 1969, Maryland’s campus was awash in the issue. There were bonfires on the university mall, a campus-wide colloquium with faculty, administrators, and students wrestling with the issue of closing the campus down, marches, and confrontations with police and the Maryland National Guard. Despite my support for the anti-war movement, I began to move further away from the far left at this point, as I witnessed left wing groups attempt to hijack the anti-war movement for their own purposes. 

When I went to work for the federal government in 1978, at the Department of Energy, I was a moderately liberal Democrat. This was a politically transformational experience for me, which spanned the last two years of the Carter Administration and the first year of the Reagan Administration. During this period,  I came to fully embrace the Reagan era free market philosophy. This was not all about Reagan, by the way, as some of the best acts of the Carter Administration were the deregulation of air travel, rail, trucking and some aspects of energy policy and telecommunications.  But it was remarkable to see how the deregulation of oil prices, in Reagan’s first day of office, caused so many of the problems that DOE had been wrestling with, to just evaporate overnight. I also liked Reagan’s in your face stance with the Soviet Union, and truly believe it hastened, if not caused, the collapse of what Reagan aptly referred to as the “Evil Empire.”

However, while I embraced Reaganism in terms of economics and foreign policy, I was never at home with the Republicans on social issues. I found that my views on social issues were more like those of the Libertarians or the Democrats. As a consequence, I have found myself voting, over the years, for Republicans and Democrats and the occasional independent.