Friday, September 21, 2007

Greenspan economics

If the world of economics has a rock star, or at least a name that maybe half of Americans might recognize, it would be that of Alan Greenspan. The former fed chief, firmly ensconced in retirement (or so we thought), has been making the rounds of television and radio, promoting his book, The Age of Turbulence.

For many, economics is equated with watching paint dry. If Greenspan’s interviews are any indication of the book’s content, however, The Age of Turbulence should be anything but dry reading.

Greenspan is drawing the ire of many on the right, with his blunt criticism of the current administration, laying charges at the feet of President Bush of “lacking fiscal discipline” and using monetary policy to push political agendas. Pork-barrel policies and political maneuverings have chewed up the surplus left by the Clinton administration, when they left Washington.

I’ve listened to two NPR interviews with Greenspan, one with the Terri Gross and the other with Robert Siegel. Greenspan comes across as someone who is rational and is humble enough to admit he doesn’t have all the answers. It might be those exemplary qualities that are making him persona non grata to many that make up the right-wing noise machine. Republicans of the conservative stripe don’t like to be called on their foibles, such as their own brand of anti-Robinhood income re-distribution.

A recent caller to C-Span’s Morning Journal went off on an anti-Greenspan rant, calling him a “liberal,” which in the stunted-growth world that conservatives inhabit, is the kiss of death, or so they think. It was obvious listening that this gentleman (I use that term with trepidation in this case) wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier and his excoriation of Mr. Greenspan was first, ironic, but even worse, in particularly bad taste. It would seem to me that a group harping on family values at every turn, might afford an 81-year-old man, who has ample life experience to back up his academic credentials, some measure of respect, just out of a sense of decorum and dignity.

Mr. Greenspan made what I thought was a particularly cogent point about the growing income disparity in our country. As a self-described, “lifelong libertarian Republican,” not averse to free market principles, he recognized that capitalism that serves only a limited segment of the population, is a bad omen for maintaining democratic ideals. While stopping short of advocating progressive taxation, I sensed that if the underlying causes of this growing chasm aren’t addressed soon, he’d be willing to consider taxation as an option, which was the most interesting part of his interview with Edwards.

Additionally, Greenspan also expressed grave concern about the growing deficit, which in his own words, “diminishes our future.” He also posited some tough sledding for baby boomers who will be retiring en masse. According to him, "We should be preparing ourselves for the retirement of the baby boomers with balanced budgets or surpluses for the difficult years ahead."

Some sentiments worth heeding, particularly for those hoping to occupy 1600 Avenue, come January of 2009.

No comments: