Sometimes one bites off more than one can chew and I did that by tackling this panel discussion on the economy. It is not the subject of a post or two, but of a long article or even a book.
Well, I waded in, so now I have to try to get back to shore. I mentioned four panel members in my previous post. The other two were, on the right, David Walker, CEO of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) from 1998 to 2008, and on the left Eric Schmidt, former CEO and now Executive Chair of Google.
Though a Democrat, Schmidt bonded with fellow CEO (ex-CEO) Carlie Fiorina, in seconding her emphasis on creating a more nurturing climate for the growth of small business, but like her, never got into any details about that. He seems worth exploring further as I imagine he would be able to give a good picture of what changes would seem useful. Fiorina, on the other hand…..well, Google her being ousted by Hewlitt-Packard and judge for yourself.
From a more immediate perspective, however, Walker seems the one to look at most closely, as he has written a book – Comeback America – and developed a center aimed at restoring fiscal responsibility, and has been praised by figures on the left and right, while also blaming both parties for not dealing with our huge fiscal problems. Though I believe he calls himself an independent, he has had more Republican ties than Democrat which put him on the right side of the table.
So, those are all the players on the panel. I said in the previous post that I disagree with G. S.s’ calling the discussion fantastic, but that is not to say that it didn’t have any merit. For one thing, it reflected our division on political lines, while still bringing together people capable of at least beginning a discussion on them. Also, G. S. did a good job of giving everyone a chance to speak and moving the discussion along. They did touch upon most, if not all, of the issues involved with the challenge of turning our economy around, in ways that might work for most people, not just a relative few.
While the economy as a whole is sputtering along, record profits were announced by some major companies yesterday, and the stock market is doing fine, so some of the economy is not in a recession, though many former employees downsized are.
So, what are the “take away’s, “ as they say?
Krugman and Walker seem the two most worthwhile to learn more about, as the former has a well developed argument that now is not the time for austerity, but for increased government spending and the latter has a well developed plan to put our fiscal house in order. Since Walker agrees now is not the time to cut government spending, there might be some middle ground between the two.
Not that other issues raised were not important, particularly the idea to establish conditions that nurture the development of small businesses, which most agree are the engines of economic development over time. But as I’ve indicated, how to do that was left open, accept to reform the tax code, which in theory could help our economy in various ways.
But what’s the likelihood of that, even after the next election? George Will described the code as a “favor machine” which has been accumulating more and more favors since it was simplified back in 1986. Will’s attitude was: Good luck reforming that, what with everyone having something they want to protect in the code. (I might add, it is 2700 pages: Who wants to begin?).
Oh, and let’s not forget education. Even though there wasn’t a show of hands, I’m sure they all think our education system need lots of improvement. However, once again the devil is in the details and, since education (as teacher, trainer, and endless student, according to my friends) is my strong suit, I see even more devils than most.
How about developing an answer to something more specific, such as how to provide more trained manufacturing engineers for Silicon Valley, where there is a shortage according to Fiorina and Schmidt. We don’t have to fix the whole system at once, which is good since we can’t. I’ve also read that we are not producing enough electricians to meet our needs with a bigger gap forecast. Why is that? Those are good paying jobs and last I heard, you didn’t need a college diploma to do them. Couldn’t we have educational programs in high school and junior college to help fill the widening electrician gap?
The panelists tried to end the discussion on a positive note, sort of summed up by George Will. “We have everything going for us once we get our bad policies out of the way.”
I agree, but can we come to an agreement as to which are the bad ones?
P. S. – Perhaps you have already had more than enough on this topic, but for those hardy few who want to clarify their sense further you can find additional information at the site of the host of the discussion the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. Among what’s there are additional comments by Krugman, Fiorina and Walker, including why Krugman muttered afterwards “we’re doomed”, only half-joking.
Also, there are responses to the discussion from two college professors, one obviously with liberal inclinations and the other with conservative ones. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which is which and who seems the more insightful. And a third professor offers a 20 page paper covering the “built to last issue”, from both left and right perspectives.