At a critical time for both the U.S. and the global economy, The Atlantic brought together policy makers, economists, business leaders, and top journalists for a series of conversations and interviews to explore possible solutions to the economic crisis at The Atlantic’s inaugural Economy Summit on March 14, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Atlantic Editor James Bennet launched the day by unveiling The Atlantic's April 2012 "Money Report," featuring Roger Lowenstein's cover story on Ben Bernanke. Whether we should view the Federal Reserve chairman as a hero or villain – addressed in the article – was a topic explored throughout the day.
A wide range of speakers brought diverse perspectives and opinions to the stage. As CNN business correspondent Ali Velshi noted in conversation with former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair, "We've had lots of digs today, people taking stabs at the other side" (see a transcript of the full interview here). A recurring theme throughout the Summit was the critical need for investment – or as former PA Governor Ed Rendell put it, "We have to spend money to make money."
A running theme on stage and in the audience (both in person and on Twitter) was a need for government spending, regardless of level, to focus on education and infrastructure. Ex-Im Bank Chair Fred Hochberg believes the U.S. is still the best place in the world to get an education (see transcript) – and NEC Director Gene Sperling argued that now is the time to invest in infrastructure given low interest rates and high numbers of job-seekers (see transcript).
Spending can’t just come from government – businesses need to build confidence and spend more to stimulate the economy (up to a third of a trillion in cash is being held on balance sheets because of lack of confidence). On an individual level, there is a need for restored trust in the government and in the economy. Laura D'Andrea Tyson recognized that, "We are in a very painful, very slow process of recovery. For many Americans, it's a very awful period," but recalled that the economy "wasn't that great before 2007” (see transcript).
Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, in conversation with The Atlantic's Steve Clemons, closed his own session stating that fewer than 20% of Americans trust that the U.S. government is doing the right thing most of the time – and cited this as a major impediment to economic recovery. Volcker encouraged Americans to take a more balanced view of government and recognize when it’s functioning well – and remain skeptical during underperformance (see transcript).
But there is some good news. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers was, "…encouraged by the last couple month's momentum. I have much more confidence in the likelihood of the economy being self-sustained than I did in 2010 or 2011” (see transcript).
Full video footage follows, and highlights are available online at C-SPAN.org and behind the scenes interviews of select speakers and attendees will be available shortly. In addition, full transcripts for other program sessions follow:
The program was underwritten by The Governor's Woods Foundation; TD Bank; the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.; and the Center for Audit Quality.
Panel Discussion -- Diagnosing a Sick U.S. Economy: What Happened and What Is the Fix? Panelists: Craig Alexander, Peter Hooper, Paul McCulley, Thomas Palley, Yves Smith
Panel Discussion -- No Nonsense Prescriptions for Jumpstarting Real Economic Growth. Panelists: Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Kevin Keller, Annette Nazareth, Ed Rendell, Peter Schiff, Sherle Schwenninger