Economists' Death Match
February 28, 2006 - 1:28pm ET
One supported NAFTA. The other opposed it. But on other issues, they agreed. Last week, the Campaign for America's Future hosted a debate between two leading economists on the challenges facing this nation in the 21st century. Economic Policy Institute founder Jeff Faux joined former White House economic adviser Gene Sperling to discuss their differing economic strategies for Democrats and progressives. Click here to read a transcript of he debate. Juicy excerpts after the jump.
Faux is the author of The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future and What It Will Take To Win In It Back. Sperling recently released his book, The Pro-Growth Progressive: An Economic Strategy For Shared Prosperity. Below are some excerpt's from last Thursday's debate:
Sperling on the ideas in his book:
[T]here should be a modicum of economic dignity for those who work, that there should be always the ability to move up in our society, and that, third, that no child’s life should be seriously set back simply by the accident of their birth. And I think that a growing economy or to say that to have— it is easier to have a melting pot if you have a growing pot. And for us, that is how we need to measure growth per se, but whether we’re having the type of growth that brings these values to life. And these are— for all the hypocrisy towards Native Americans or African Americans or women in our society, this was the defining vision that actually unified our founders in the best way— a growing economy without a perpetual economic elite or a perpetual underclass, where work and talent or even luck could determine who would rise, and not simply the accident of birth.
Faux on one of the main points of his book:
Now, the problem is not trade. Globalization is a reality. We’ve bee trading for 200— we’ve been trading since we became a colony of England. I buy bananas. I buy coffee. Very little of that is grown in the United States. But it is the form of trade. In effect, what we have done was embraced a global market system without a social contract. And that is the core of what I see is the problem here. The so-called trade agreements have allowed the elites—the financial elite of this country to escape the social contract and essentially, with global—with a mobility of capital, leave what we had in this country behind.
Sperling on education and high-skilled jobs:
I do think that the degree that people see high-skilled jobs threatened has a deeper psychic impact than people who simply just count up the number of jobs that are outsourced. The sense that even a college education is not necessarily a ticket to economic security I think is one of the reasons that you are seeing more widespread economic anxiety.
However, all of that being said, I still think the answer is education is less of a sure thing, but it’s more important than it ever was. I still think the right type of education increases your chances of mobility in the workforce.
There is no question that manufacturing jobs that stay in the U.S. will require a higher level of education. I think that when you look at the growth in the workforce, the native work force, the 25- to 64-year-old workforce— a David Elwin (?) and Aspen study shows it is not going to grow over the next 20 years and it’s going to be made up of more minorities, more people who have usually been out of the workforce.
This I think creates a great pro-growth progressive agenda to try to bring more people to aspire to higher education. Claudia knows I’m going to mention GEAR UP, which we have both worked on, but exactly the right thing to reach children at a young age and give them the hope and aspiration of going forward, not just because it’s just the right and moral thing, but you’re going to have to bring a higher degree of jobs in the workforce.
Faux attacking the notion that U.S. workers just need training to compete in a global economy:
I think education is important both for competitive reasons but for its own sake as well. But one of the things that has happened to us as a country is that people have a narrower and narrower choices about education in a sense because it is all about how are you going to get that job after you come out of college and you owe all of this money.
And so the deal between the society and the individual has become corrupted, and there are a lot of people out there who have done what they were supposed to do— they got a bachelor’s degree, they got a master’s degree, they got a Ph.D., and suddenly the dream is not there; what is left is the debts. So that education is not a magic bullet and education ought to be put in the framework of the question, what kind of a society do we want to be?
So we want to be a society where for all of your working life you get a job for two years, you get retrained for a year, you get a job for two years, you go back to school? You are on that treadmill. Or do we want to be a society where there is more room, and I suggest that in order to create more room for individuals, you are going to have a much more active and protective government.
The sort of central idea here is that it’s lack of productivity, lack of skills that is the reason why we have this growing inequality in the country. I think there’s some truth to this, and I support many of the things that are in Gene’s book. But it’s like helping someone up a down escalator. It does not solve the basic central problem, which is, why is it increasingly so hard for people to make a living, a decent living, in this richest of all countries?
For the complete transcript, click here.
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future