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MacArthur Foundation on American fiscal policy

Friday 23 July, 2010

I attended this event America’s Fiscal Future: Making Difficult Choices sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation & Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago featuring Dr.’s John Palmer & Rudolph Penner.  You should be able to see/listen to the panel discussion here @ Chicago Amplified on the local outlet for National Public Radio.  The event was put together to promote a report sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future My hope was to be able to put this topic into a global context.  Alas, I was soundly disappointed.

Since you can see/hear the discussion, I’ll add my $.02 worth.  Maybe I’m feeling cranky today (it will be near 100 degrees F), but in my mind, how our government spends our money & manages our national debt is an issue of national competitiveness.  The more we haggle over pork-barrel projects, the less we are able to invest in spending that enhances our global competitiveness.  The greater debt we bear, the less we will be able to finance infrastructure replenishment & growth, plus education.  The discussion points out, our budgeting process is broken & it’s costing us as a nation.  Today the global economy is so closely intertwined, it doesn’t make sense to consider this issue without taking a look at where we fit relative to other countries in how we spend our money.  I sat next to Karl Bushmann, a University of Chicago graduate, so he’s a pretty smart guy.  He wanted to ask how our current situation compares with Japan’s, a real possibility, but never got the chance to pose the question.  Japan suffered for over a decade of deflation, & that’s a real possibility here, as is the threat in the other direction of rampant inflation.  We just don’t know in which direction the economy is going to go.  The speakers hold PhD degrees, so they’re certainly well-educated:  they just didn’t seem to be interested to put this into a global context.

I’ve taken a look through the materials they distributed @ the event, & found it’s disappointing that it doesn’t look like the MacArthur promotes more projects which address more global issues.  Adele Simmons, President of the MacArthur Foundation 1989-1999 & currently Vice Chair and Senior Executive, Chicago Metropolis 2020, “established the Foundation’s global reach, opening offices in Russia to strengthen universities and policy institutes, and launching the Population Program with field offices in Mexico, Nigeria, Brazil, and India.”  1 of its 4 programs looks to be global in scope.  “The Program on Global Security and Sustainability focuses on international issues, including human rights and international justice, peace and security, conservation and sustainable development, higher education in Nigeria and Russia, migration and human mobility, an population and reproductive health.”    It has also supported work in 58 countries.

A website www.ourfiscalfuture.org was created to discuss the topic as well.  The MacArthur Foundation seems to be a very globally-aware organization.  I just wish they’d do more to publicize international issues as much as they did this domestic one.

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