The Commonwealth Blog

Submit Questions for Today's Members-Only Teleconference

Oct 27, 2011 @ 8:20 AM

Commonwealth Club members were invited by email to participate in a free, members-only teleconference this morning from 9-10 am Pacific time. You can submit your questions for the speakers by using the comment section for this blog post. Our moderator, Commonwealth Club President & CEO Dr. Gloria C. Duffy, will select as many questions as she has time to ask the speakers.

Tax the wealthy? Cut public pensions? Create infrastructure projects and jobs? Raise or lower the debt ceiling? Cut defense spending? Stimulate tech and green sector innovation? How to bring the U.S. economy back to a higher and stable growth path continues to bedevil economists, business leaders and policymakers. The unpredictability of the economy makes business and personal decisions difficult. Hire or not? Retire or not? Invest or not?

Last week the New America Foundation released a White Paper on the U.S. economy, "The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness," authored by Daniel Alpert (managing partner with Westwood Capital in New York), Robert Hockett (a professor of law at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY) and Nouriel Roubini (an economist at Princeton University). The paper evaluates the steps taken so far to stimulate the U.S. economy, and it recommends three specific strategies for addressing the continuing economic challenges. Their recommendations have already stimulated discussion in The New York Times.

Does "The Way Forward" as presented by the White Paper make sense, and if so, how can it be implemented? We look forward to in-depth discussion and your questions for Daniel Alpert and Robert Hockett on "The Way Forward."


Welcome to the teleconference. Submit your questions here by posting a new comment or replying to a comment that's posted here.

In regard to all these jobs that will be created by the rebuilding of the American infrastructure, is there an guarantee that the jobs will go to Americans?

Do you believe these Free Trade Treaties are unconstitutional since they did not pass 2/3rds of the Senate as required? Overall, do you believe these Free Trade Treaties have been beneficial or detrimental to the US economy, and why? Do you believe these Free Trade Treaties have been beneficial or detrimental to US soverignty.

What's the economic impact of immigration? Should it be increased, or decreased? What about the people, especially the middle class, who already live here?

It seems that economic reform in China is key to improvement of the U.S. economy. What can the U.S. do on a fast track regarding China?

With any of your prescriptions for what we should do economically, what is the likelihood of any of them being enacted in our current political atmosphere?

Why do we talk about about "mega-millionaires" with planes, boats and vacation homes, but draw a line at 1% (which to my understanding is net worth of $1.2M). If you own a home in California, that is not under water, and have some 401K savings, you quite possibly are in the 1%. I have a mortgage and am paying, not defaulting, and I pay part of my mother-in-law's mortgage. There are property taxes, schools, basic living expenses, etc. and we don't have much left over each month, yet we are the 1%. Is it fair that I pay 20x in property tax than my elderly neighbor thanks to prop 13? Is it fair that my house cost multiple times what other neighbors paid when they bought 15 years ago? Let's come up with another solution besides "taxing the 1%."

Roll back the tax code to pre-Reagan. The problems began with his administration- all the memes of class warfare (the phony welfare queen story, the anti-government "frightening words", "freeing" the mentally ill that began the homeless epidemic). The demise of the U.S. began with him and his restructured tax code and anti-compassion stance (the "bootstraps" blame game).

The US Reconstruction Bonds is an interesting concept particularly for repatriated corporate profits and a transfer of some of China ' s US treasury assets. Is it a concept that can get a hearing in the political arena?

Is the debt problem solvable worldwide? The U.S. is dramatically in debt, Europe is dramatically in debt, and I've heard that China's provinces and local governments are dramatically in debt (for which the central Chinese government is ultimately responsible). Are we just in for a loooong period of austerity?

I am curious why your three way-forward pillars seem to omit or are relatively (fully?) silent on US tax reform and simplification as part of the solution?

You have focused on exogenous causes to the current economic situation. What could have been done differently domestically over the last two decades to lessen the severity of our current situation?

The deregulation has come too quickly, in my opinion. We should ease up on the free trade treaties (agreements is a misleading term, and yes I too believe they are in violation of the Constitution). We shipped jobs overseas too quickly. We give companies too big a tax break for their overseas operations. I want to say that we should bring back protectionism, but rather we should not have abandoned protectionism so quickly. Other nations are protecting their industries, why shouldn't we?

Pillar Two of your Recovery Plan discusses debt restructuring, specifically suggesting restructuring mortgage debt is a necessary action to maximize economic recovery. How do you reconcile relieving the debt of over-leveraged borrowers with those that borrowed more responsibly and, although having lost value in their homes, are not underwater and continue to pay down their debt.

Amen! Lowering rates artificially does the same thing. We loosened credit when homes were overpriced. Now we are tightening credit (and down payments) when homes are undervalued. Both are backwards. Now is the time to make it easier, for working families, to get back into a home. Shared equity agreements are one way to do that without the lender or investor giving up unreasonable equity.

I am a 25 year industrial and information automation executive and engineer. The debate around jobs and the economy is like watching the story of the elephant and the 6 blind men. All arguing about who is right, when all only see a small piece of the truth. What we need now is a new paradigm, not just new policy, programs and projects. There is a "Magic Bullet" that while unconventional and counterintuitive, is logical, historical proven and even showing results in another country TODAY. There is a way to put millions back to work in months, not years. A solution that doesn't require government intervention nor digging deeper debts and deficits. Once you recognize that the new normal is a result of the fact that there aren't as many jobs anymore (especially for a woefully undereducated America), you'll begin to understand that it's time to REDISTRIBUTE WORK, not wealth. I've outlined the concept in detail (including a white paper) at . In essence, it's time for us to voluntarily reduce the work week. For every 9 Americans worked 4 less hours a week, we could employ a 10th. There is the fix to our 10% unemployment America. I know this sounds simplistic, but it's historically proven over the last 200 years, and is working now in Germany. And, it's less costly to us than devalueing the dollar and paying for the unemployed. I challenge the Commonwealth Club to having me discuss this concept at length in the near future. Dave Cary

To what extent should we anticipate greater and more serious civil unrest in our society, depending on the policies implemented and particularly if political pressures prevent the government from being the purchaser of last resort?

It is recognized that the US economy has over the last decade or so been 70% driven by consumer spending. Given that much of this was driven by excessive borrowing/spending of home equity, and given that such equity no longer exists, is it realistic to think we can ever get consumption back to that pre-recession level?

What is the President doing on a national as well international scale regarding the "Occupy" protests?

Beginning in 2001 President Bush and Congress began reducing tax rates for our most affluent taxpayers - by reducing tax rates on investment income and increasing the effective tax rates of wage earners. In addition to accelerating the demotivating income disparity between our richest and poorest citizens, this tax shift from has reduced the size and purchasing power of the middle class - which has reduced consumer demand and subsequently the number of jobs in our economy. We should stop spending on wasteful wars abroad, restore income parity via Clinton era tax rates, reduce the cost of education and begin massive infrastructure programs to rebuild America.


Feel free to continue the conversation here on this blog, or on our Facebook page ( ).

Also, leave some feedback on the teleconference itself. Was it useful? Was the sound quality good or bad? We'll read every comment, and we'll use the feedback to make these even more useful in the future.

-The Commonwealth Club of California

Hi, Club Members - thanks for the great questions for today's teleconference! We had 127 members on the phone this morning.

I look forward to hosting another of our "virtual" programs soon! All comments welcome, including topics and speakers for future teleconferenced programs.

Gloria Duffy Club President and CEO