Maybe it’s the financial crisis that drew hundreds interested in America’s economic future to crowd into Room 13 in Gladfelter Hall last Thursday.
After all the seats in the room were taken, students and professors sat in the aisles and huddled near entranceways to hear Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute, discuss ways Americans can take back the nation’s economic future.
Reischauer presented his lecture, “Taking back our economic future: What the candidates aren’t telling us, as part of the Leonard Mellman Visiting Scholars Program.
He opened his speech by saying “we are no longer in normal times.”
Reischauer accused presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain of “Santa Clause and tooth fairy talk” because of the numerous promises they’ve made to Americans.
Reischauer, who received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a doctorate from Columbia University, served as the director of the Congressional Budget Office and was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.
He said there are different options available for repaying the U.S. federal budget deficit, but each has implications.
Printing more money creates inflation, Reischauer said.
Reischauer said Obama and McCain avoid discussing the fiscal imbalance.
The Clinton administration ended a declining public debt as the Bush tax cuts, $700 billion bailout bill, our current recession and the next economic stimulus package estimated around $300 billion are all internal reasons why our country is acquiring a “frightening”, debt he said.
His speech also focused on Medicare and Medicaid and how health reform in quality, price and universal coverage has been ignored by the candidates.
Reischauer said if oil prices stabilized, the result would be equal to a $250 billion tax cut.
“I don’t stay up at night worried about energy prices, I worry about our consumption,” he said.
The “shrill cacophony” on the 24-hour news networks isn’t helping voters either, Reischauer said.
He also said he was surprised the younger generation is willing to dive into debt and live without any financial safety net.
“I’m not trying to be critical. I’ve got a son who is the poster-child for this kind of activity,” he said.
Reischauer closed his speech with changes Americans can carry out to redirect the country.
He said Americans need candidates to be honest in reforming the nation’s public education system, which Reischauer said may close the wealth gap that exists between social classes.
Reischauer encouraged students to be fiscally responsible individuals.
“Learn about finance and don’t insist on a free lunch,” he said. “Vote for candidates who will make tough decisions.”
Greg Adomaitis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.