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The Fed's QE Program Has Been Great for Banks, But Maybe Not for Your Wallet

November 19, 2015

Quantitative easing has been good for Wall Street, but has it done anything for the average American? It's debatable.

At an event this week in New York hosted by Intelligence Squared U.S., a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that holds Oxford-style debates on important issues, two teams of two duked it out over this question: Can central banks print prosperity?

If Central Banks Print More Money, Will It Lead to Economic Prosperity?

November 18, 2015

While most agree that the U.S. narrowly avoided a second Great Depression, how that happened isn't agreed upon. In fact, whether QE works at all is an open question, one that will be debated tonight in New York.

Intelligence Squared U.S., a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that seeks to foster constructive, reasonable analysis in public discourse through a series of Oxford-style debates, will host its latest debate Wednesday, focusing on the following motion: Can central banks print prosperity? In the words of John Donvan, Intelligence Squared U.S.'s long-time debate moderator, four "supremely qualified" debaters will argue for and against the motion: Simon Johnson a professor and MIT and former chief economist and the IMF (for); Roger Bootle, executive chairman of economic research firm Capital Economics (for); Edward Conard, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former partner at Bain Capital (against); and Andrew Huszar, a senior fellow at Rutgers Business School (against).

In a Debate About the American Future, America Wins

February 13, 2015

Immigration and innovation will enable America to maintain its position as a superpower, experts say, despite policy mistakes made along the way.

Are America's best days behind it? Or should the world continue to bet on its future as a global superpower?

That was the subject of a spirited, four-person debate this week in New York City at the Kaufman Music Center, the 100th in a series called Intelligence Squared. Over the past decade, the debate event, sponsored by the public policy and education organization Rosenkranz Foundation, has featured a variety of experts weighing in on pressing topics of the day, such as the U.S.'s Middle East policy, genetically modified food, and the ethics of fracking, among other things.

Why Income Inequality Is America’s Biggest (and Most Difficult) Problem

October 26, 2014

But, here’s the problem: The same political forces that allowed the 1 percent to take our political system hostage have only worsened in the past decade. As Nick Hanauer notes in a recent Intelligence Squared debate, "At the same time, the percent of — of labor — the percent of GDP devoted to labor has gone from 52 to 42. So that difference is about a trillion dollars annually. So that — here’s the thing you have to understand. That trillion dollars isn’t profit because it needs to be or should be or has to be. It’s profit because powerful people like me and [Edward Conrad] prefer it to be. That trillion dollars could very easily be spent on wages. Or — or on discounts for consumers. This isn’t a consequence of some magical law of economics. This is a consequence of differentials in power."


October 24, 2014

MANHATTAN — “Working hard is the backbone of the American Dream,” words from progressive economist Elise Gould’s opening statement in Wednesday’s Intelligence Squared debate about inequality hold bipartisan appeal. Yet Gould’s vision of wage levels and the mechanisms that should affect them contrasted sharply with her opponents’.

Income Inequality Doesn't Harm Upward Mobility, Scholars Argue

October 23, 2014

The debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared U.S., pitted Winship and Conard against Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer. Gould and Hanauer argue common sense shows that as the wealthiest earn larger portions of the nation’s income, those at the bottom find it harder to increase their own incomes and the nation’s economy grows slower.

What the Intelligence Squared Inequality Debate Missed—The Politics of Inequality

October 23, 2014

Last night, I had the honor of attending an Intelligence Squared debate on the proposition that, “Income Inequality Impairs the American Dream of Upward Mobility.” It was an engrossing debate. Affirming the motion were Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist know for his pro-minimum wage stance, and Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. Against the motion, were Scott Winship of the Manhattan Institute and former Bain Capital partner Edward Conard.

Recent Income Gains Have Gone to the Rich

October 23, 2014

“Unintended Consequences” Author Edward Conard, Economic Policy Institute Economist Elise Gould and Bloomberg View Columnist Mohamed El-Erian discuss the Intelligence Squared U.S. income inequality debate on “In The Loop.” El-Erian’s opinions are his own.


June 03, 2014

The Seattle experiment in wage rate regulation should provide yet another opportunity to test the effects of this type of labor market policy. In the meantime, I leave you with this informative Intelligence Squared debate on the motion “Abolish the Minimum Wage."

What Would Happen if We Got Rid of the Minimum Wage?

May 14, 2014

The Cato Institute’s James Dorn and the Hoover Institution’s Russell Roberts made this point at length during an Intelligence Squared debate last year in which they advocated doing away with minimum wages. “Right now there are people within a few blocks of where we are sitting who cannot find work simply because their skills are not worth $7.25 an hour,” Russell told the audience. “Why would you condemn those men and women to a wage of zero?”

Break Up Big Banks? Here’s a Better Solution

October 21, 2013

"Break up the big banks!"

As a rallying cry, this remains a pretty powerful one for Wall Street’s harshest critics. Even among some of those who understand the banking system very well – like former FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair – it’s an idea that is difficult to dismiss. Does anyone really like the idea that 70 percent of the banking system’s assets are controlled by 0.2 percent of the banks in that system? Or the fact that the balance sheet of JPMorgan Chase – the same bank that has reportedly reached a tentative $13 billion settlement with the Justice Department over bad mortgage loans sold to investors – is about a quarter the size of the GDP of the United States?

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Fed, and economist Simon Johnson brought up those figures about the size of big banks last Wednesday evening as the two men argued in favor of a motion to make the country’s banks less of a systemic risk by breaking them into smaller pieces. The forum for this debate was Intelligence Squared U.S., which hosts an annual series of Oxford-style debates (roughly, one every three or four weeks) over some contentious question, such as “Abolish the Minimum Wage,” “The U.S. Drone Program is Fatally Flawed” or “For a Better Future, Live in a Red State.”

For my money, these debates are some of the best and most thought-provoking entertainment you can have. (And you don’t need money to participate: They’re available via live streaming online.) The debaters – two on each side of the evening’s question – are usually smart, well informed, civil, on point and occasionally even acknowledge the merits of their opponents’ argument.  (Would that we could say the same of our elected leaders….)

The Winning Case Against Megabanks

October 18, 2013

There continues to be a forceful economic debate about the cost of financial companies that are regarded -- by officials and by credit markets -- as “too big to fail.”

There is no doubt that, during the severe crisis of fall 2008, the executives running these companies felt intense pressure and that responsible officials felt these institutions required huge amounts of government support.

The question is: What has really changed since September 2008, when Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley became bank holding companies, giving them better access to funding from the Federal Reserve? Or since October 2008, when the first injections of new capital were provided to banks that faced big potential losses? Or since November 2008, when Citigroup Inc. received a big additional dollop of support (mostly in the form of downside guarantees)?

There are three responses from the big banks that were ably represented this week at an Intelligence Squared debate in New York. (The topic was “Break Up the Big Banks.” I was in favor of the motion, supporting the ideas of Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; our side received 49 percent of the final audience vote. Opponents got 39 percent, with the rest of the public undecided.)

Abolish the Minimum Wage? It's No Fantasy

April 11, 2013

Free market advocates tried to convince an audience at Washington, D.C.‘s Burke Theater last week that the minimum wage should be abolished.

James Dorn of the Cato Institute and popular economist Russ Roberts faced Jared Bernstein from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Karen Kornbluh, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, in an Oxford-style debate facilitated by the organization Intelligence Squared.

Abolish the Minimum Wage??!! A Debate

April 04, 2013

Had a rousing and often substantive debate last night sponsored by the group Intelligence Squared. My partner was the great and eloquent Karen Kornbluh (listen to the podcast -- I really thought Karen did a great job merging morality, compassion, and the facts of the case); the opposing team was Russ Roberts and Jim Dorn. The proposition was "the minimum wage should be abolished." I'll let you guess which side Karen and I took, but the good news: the audience votes at the beginning and end of the debate and team that gets more people to switch to their side wins. We won.

The Great Debate Over The Strong Dollar

March 14, 2013

Does the U.S. need a strong dollar policy?

The Kaufman Center played host to a debate on monetary policy Wednesday night. Officially the resolution under consideration was "America Doesn't Need a Strong Dollar Policy"—although what it really ended up being about was the wisdom of the gold standard.

The sponsor of the Wednesday night's debate was an outfit called Intelligence Squared U.S., which turns these things into podcasts, and public radio and television broadcasts.

Economist Who Advises Mitt Romney: ‘Rich Are Taxed Enough’

October 25, 2012

“The rich are taxed enough,” argued Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard.

The man who The New York Times called Mitt Romney’s “go-to economist” and who is considered a leading candidate to be treasury secretary in a Republican administration made his case at a debate in New York.

“Raising tax rates on the rich is both counter-productive and unnecessary to fund the government we want,” said Hubbard.

While steering clear of specifics, Hubbard told the audience at the Intelligence Squared Debate that “higher tax rates won’t necessarily produce enhancements in revenue.”

“We can and should achieve fairness and growth without taxing the rich more than they are today,” he said.

Hubbard’s somewhat dry tone was balanced by the passion of one of his debate opponents, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Speaking against the motion “the rich are taxed enough,” Reich argued called the idea “absurd.”

“The rich have done extraordinarily well but the rest haven’t,” said Reich to audience applause. “The percentage of total U.S. income of the top 1 percent has doubled in the past 30 years. Given where we are now, we shouldn’t even have this debate.”

Hubbard opposed raising tax rates for the rich but added, “We need a progressive tax system.”

“The wealthy should pay a disproportionate share of taxes,” he said.

Hubbard and his debate team colleague, Arthur Laffer, spoke out for tax reform that would lower rates but also broaden the tax base.

“We need to think about growth and fairness. Tax rates should not rise,” said Hubbard.

The United States already has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world, he argued. Comparing the U.S. economy to a tall building, Hubbard said the “lower floors are flooded” while the people in the penthouse are doing well -but “the elevator is broken.”

If the tax base were broadened with lower rates and tax reform, opportunity would be expanded and “we would get more revenues” to pay for the government,” he said.

Nocera Hits the Bulls-Eye on Magnitsky Act

April 17, 2012

[Commentary magazine quotes Ian Bremmer from an IQ2US debate on China.] …As Nocera notes, our dedication to the rule of law is a big reason this law would be effective. And it’s not just Russians. Last month, at Intelligence Squared U.S.’s debate on China and capitalism, Ian Bremmer said the same thing: “We got to watch what people do, not what people say, what they do. Did you see that piece in the Wall Street Journal, talked about the disposition of Chinese millionaires, how over 50 percent of Chinese millionaires say they prefer to live in the United States than China?…”

China’s Not the Big Trade Cheat Harming America’s Domestic Economy

March 16, 2012

Last week Intelligence Squared hosted a debate on whether China does capitalism better than the United States does. The result was a resounding no, and a strong audience endorsement of the notion that China is more paper tiger than dragon on the rise.

China Ups U.S. Debt to $1.16 Trillion

March 15, 2012

“We got to know who has all the cards in this relationship. It is not the U.S., because China is the biggest creditor and we are the debtor,” Peter Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital Inc, said after a televised debate on China and the US economy hosted by Intelligence Squared in New York.

Why America’s Capitalism Is Better Than China’s

March 13, 2012

About three-fourths of the way through Tuesday’s Slate/Intelligence Squared Oxford-style debate on whether China does capitalism better than America, one audience member stood up to request a clarification of terms. How, she asked the panelists on stage, do you define capitalism? She struck a nerve.

Intelligence Squared U.S. Audience Does Not Agree that “China Does Capitalism Better than America”

March 13, 2012

Last night, Intelligence Squared U.S. continued its spring 2012 season with a sold-out debate and a victory against the motion “China Does Capitalism Better than America.” In the final tally, Ian Bremmer and Minxin Pei won the Oxford-style debate by convincing 35% of the audience to change their minds and oppose the motion. In the largest margin in IQ2US history, 85% of audience members agreed post-debate that China does not employ a more successful capitalist system than the United States, up from 50% pre-debate.

Does China Do Capitalism Better Than America?

March 04, 2012

Four Sinologists, economists, writers, and policy advisers will tackle these questions at the next Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. live debate on March 13 at NYU’s Skirball Center in New York City.

Risk/Return: 2 Paths to Fixing the Jobs Crisis

November 03, 2011

[T]wo teams squared off last month to debate the question of whether Congress should pass President Obama’s jobs plan – piecemeal, if necessary. The debate, held under the auspices of Intelligence Squared US, pitted Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi and Princeton University policy wonk Cecilia Rouse against Richard Epstein, an NYU law professor, and Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute, with the latter duo arguing that what’s needed for the economy to rebound and ultimately create new jobs is structural reform, not what Mitchell called “faux stimulus.”

Too Late to Debate Obama Stimulus Plan

October 27, 2011

There was really no point to any further debate, but I went to the debate, anyway. It was part of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate Series at New York University's Skirball Center on Tuesday night. The topic: "Congress Should Pass Obama's Jobs Plan--Piece By Piece." It was fun watching four wonkish brainiacs flagellate each other over a $447 billion stimulus plan that was pretty much dead on arrival weeks ago.

Decisive Vote Says “Congress Should Pass Obama’s Jobs Plan- Piece By Piece” At Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate

October 25, 2011

Last night NYU’s Skirball Center saw an overwhelming victory for the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, “Congress Should Pass Obama’s Jobs Plan – Piece By Piece.” According to the final votes, Cecilia Rouse and Mark Zandi won the debate by convincing 24% of the audience to change their minds to support the motion, thus winning the Oxford style debate. They argued Obama’s jobs plan is a necessary step toward avoiding another recession and stimulus legislation will stem an economic downturn.

A Victory for the President’s Jobs Plan (Sort Of)

October 25, 2011

Earlier this week, President Obama, ardent lover of three-word mantras, introduced a new slogan for his American Jobs Act: "We can't wait!" The president exhorted Congress to act on the jobs creation plan he introduced in September. The audience at last night's Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. live debate at NYU's Skirball Center vehemently agreed with the president: After the conclusion of the debate, 69 percent voted for the motion "Congress should pass Obama's jobs bill—piece by piece"; 22 percent voted against the motion; and 9 percent were undecided.

Debate: Do Grandma's Benefits Imperil Junior's Future?

October 05, 2011

Last night's Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series took a look at America's health care entitlement programs and examined their impact on future generations.

Grandma's Benefits Imperil Junior's Future

September 23, 2011

How you can watch - and participate in - the live Slate/Intelligence Squared debate October 4 at NYU.

Carroll: Ritter Drubbed in Debate

April 01, 2011

With a $300,000 salary, Bill Ritter is paid way more than the average academic at Colorado State University. So the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU surely ought to know his stuff.

Intelligence Squared Debates Ask: Can Clean Energy Drive America’s Economic Recovery?

March 08, 2011

In the latest round in America’s premier debate series, Intelligence Squared Debates (IQ2US), Bill Ritter, the former governor of Colorado, who established the state as a leader in renewable energy joins Kassia Yanosek, co-founder of the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance support the motion while Robert Bryce, author of “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future” and Steven Hayward, author of “Almanac of Environmental Trends” oppose it.