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    466. She’s From the Government, and She’s Here to Help

    en-usJune 17, 2021

    Podcast Summary

    • Cecilia Rouse and the Role of Government Intervention in Economic PolicyRouse believes in balancing government intervention and market potential to address pandemic-related economic issues. With her background and evidence-based approach, the Council aims to guide President Biden with fact-based advice.

      Cecilia Rouse believes in the importance of government intervention in imperfect markets, while also valuing the potential of markets, incentives, and prices. President Biden's Council of Economic Advisors, led by Rouse, faces a myriad of economic issues resulting from the pandemic, including rising inequality, deficits, supply chain disruptions, and job shortages. Rouse's background as an economist and her previous experience with the C.E.A. during the Great Financial Crisis positions her to effectively guide economic policy during this difficult time. As chair of the C.E.A., Rouse values evidence-based decision making, but also recognizes the inherently political nature of economic policy coordination through the National Economic Council. Ultimately, Rouse and the C.E.A. aim to analyze the data and provide fact-based guidance to President Biden.

    • President Biden's Ambitious Plans for Economic ProgressPresident Biden, with the support of his advisers, is determined to make significant improvements in the economy for Americans, especially for people of color. They are actively engaged in discussing policies to address the immediate concerns while working towards long-term progress.

      President Biden aims to make fundamental progress in what the public sector can do for all Americans and particularly for people of color, during this time of a messy economy. He approaches this moment with ambitious ideas and a willingness to try new things, even though it may not be the smoothest road ahead. The 30th chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Cecilia Rouse, works closely with the President and Vice President to present them with new information and ideas once a week, where they are actively engaged and have read the material ahead of time. They discuss policies and ways to address immediate concerns such as the supply chain struggles due to pandemic needs. This administration is ready to take on challenges and create progress for the betterment of America.

    • The Impact of the Pandemic on Supply Chain and Policy DecisionsThe pandemic has resulted in a shortage of semiconductors and disrupted supply chains. While the US government has set aside funds to address this issue, top-down solutions may not be effective. Policy decisions now require a shift towards research and intuition, as traditional academic evidence may not be sufficient. The Biden administration has proposed ambitious spending programs to support American families and jobs, but their success remains to be seen.

      The pandemic has created a number of supply chain challenges across different industries, including a shortage of semiconductors that are crucial for digital technologies. The US government has set aside $52 billion to fund the production of semiconductors, but it won't solve the problem overnight. While economists can advise on how to maximize outcomes under constraints, politicians still tend to favor top-down solutions that involve large sums of money. Moreover, the pandemic has required a shift in how policy decisions are made, with more attention being paid to research and intuition since academic evidence only goes so far. Despite these challenges, the Biden administration has proposed two large spending programs to support American families and jobs, which would represent a larger share of GDP than even the budgets during World War II.

    • Prioritizing Survival Over Efficiency in Times of Crisis: The Debate on Economic Stimulus PackagesDuring crises, it is more important to ensure the survival of civilization and help the most people possible, even if it means sacrificing efficiency. While President Biden's proposals reflect a belief in a strong public sector, they face criticism and debate on their effectiveness.

      During times of crisis such as the pandemic or World War II, the primary focus should be on ensuring the survival of civilization. In the case of economic stimulus packages, efficiency should take a backseat to helping the most people possible. The historically large spending proposals put forth by the Biden administration reflect a belief in the importance of a strong public sector, which was highlighted by the pandemic. However, these proposals have faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. While some worry about inefficiency and disincentive effects, others prioritize helping the most people over hyper-targeting aid. President Biden's economic reforms reflect his conviction in the importance of the public sector.

    • The importance of government investments in the aftermath of COVID-19 and racial justice reckoningPresident Biden's proposed plans are a rebuke to Reagan's view of government help. The government can tolerate larger deficits to make important investments and markets can fail, making government intervention necessary for progress.

      The COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice reckoning, and economic crisis have highlighted the importance of the public sector and government investments proposed by President Biden's Jobs Plan and Families Plan. These plans are being viewed as a rebuke of President Reagan's infamous quote about governmental help being terrifying. The federal government can tolerate larger deficits and borrowing at low interest rates to make important investments. Despite Republican criticism, the Council of Economic Advisors has generated accessible reports with backup evidence to support the economic arguments underlying these plans. The past two decades have shown that markets can fail, making government intervention necessary for societal progress.

    • Monopsony Power and Its Impact on Wages and Income Inequality in the USThe American Families Plan addresses the issue of monopsony power in the labor market by proposing solutions such as funding for childcare, paid leave, and tuition-free community college. The plan recognizes that improving access to education can lead to high returns and proposes retention funds to improve outcomes.

      Monopsony power in the labor market is a major cause of wage stagnation and income inequality in the US. This power allows employers to pay lower than market wages due to their ability to compete for workers. The American Families Plan proposes solutions to this issue, including funding for childcare, paid leave, and tuition-free community college. The plan recognizes the important role of community colleges in our higher education system, with about half of students starting their education in a community college. While some struggle with quality and completion rates, the plan proposes retention funds to improve outcomes. Additionally, increasing access to higher education can be an investment with high returns.

    • The Impact of Student Loans on Occupational ChoicesStudent loans may influence graduates to choose lower-paying jobs to avoid debt. Loan forgiveness programs for public-interest jobs need proper implementation. Canceling student debt is debated, but the Biden administration is exploring options to address the crisis.

      Student loans can impact the occupational choices of students, with graduates more likely to choose lower-income occupations if they do not have to pay back loans. However, programs offering loan forgiveness for public-interest occupations need to be properly implemented to be effective. Canceling student debt has been a controversial proposal, with some economists arguing that it would direct money to a population that needs it less than others. The Biden administration supports pausing student loan payments and is considering ways to address the crisis, including potential cancelation if Congress presents a bill.

    • Biden Administration's Plan for Student Loan Forgiveness and Job CreationThe administration is focused on making education more effective for public service and creating job opportunities in infrastructure and clean energy to combat automation and technology job loss.

      The Biden administration is focused on making student loan forgiveness programs and income-based repayment programs more effective, particularly for those going into public service. Education offers a significant return on investment in the modern economy, but this was not always the case. Changes in technology and the decline in manufacturing led to higher-paying employment opportunities requiring a higher level of skills, leading to the demand for higher education. The administration is aware that it is essential to have well-compensated jobs to combat automation and technology job loss, and they are exploring approaches such as a side-door U.B.I. and climate change policies. The American Jobs Plan could benefit people without a B.A. by creating job opportunities in building infrastructure and clean energy.

    • Breaking Barriers and Recognizing Progress: A Black Female Economist's PerspectiveCecilia Rouse's success was influenced by her upbringing and commitment to education and social issues. Systemic racism still exists, and young students are frustrated by the slow pace of progress. The "talented tenth" model is debated, and there are opportunities for good-paying jobs that raise existential questions.

      Cecilia Rouse, the first Black female to head the Council of Economic Advisers, acknowledges her success in a historically white male profession wasn't frictionless. However, her upbringing in a family committed to education and social issues pushed her forward. She recognizes the progress made in addressing systemic racism but feels the frustration of young students about the slow pace. The notion of the 'talented tenth' among Black Americans, setting an example for all to aspire to, is a debated model for success, as it establishes an elite and doesn't directly address the other 90-99%. The transformation brings opportunities for good-paying jobs many already have the skills to perform, raising existential questions.

    • Cecilia Rouse on Advancing Economic Justice for People of ColorGovernment intervention, role models, and compensatory measures are essential to creating a more equitable economic system that addresses racial inequities and wealth gaps. The Biden Administration's proposed reforms aim to do just that while also mitigating the negative impact of global trade.

      As an African-American economist, Cecilia Rouse recognizes the flaws in economic models that assume a market that does not exist in reality, which disproportionately affects people of color. She emphasizes the importance of government intervention to make markets work better and address racial inequities. Additionally, role models and the belief in the possibility of achieving goals are crucial to promoting upward mobility. The Biden Administration's proposed reforms aim to address racial inequities and wealth gaps, particularly through investments in minority communities and redressing historical racism in housing policies. Rouse also highlights the negative impact of global trade on job loss and income inequality and the need for compensatory measures for those affected. Overall, a more equitable and just economic system requires a combination of government intervention, individual efforts, and compensatory measures for those who have been left behind.

    • Limitations of Economics in Policy Making and Importance of a Holistic ApproachEconomic predictions should not be the sole basis for policy decisions. Anthropologists can provide valuable insights into diverse populations. Policy makers should consider a range of demographic, political, and socio-economic factors for a truly effective approach.

      Economists should not be blindly followed for policy decisions as their predictions have not always been in line with the current societal issues. Although economics has a lot to contribute to policy discussions but it should not be given a monopoly. Anthropologists who observe the smaller segments of the population can provide big sets of data with a contextual understanding. Policies and decisions should be applied with considerations under the different demographic groups, political orientations, income and education levels prevalent across the country. The academic research and tools cannot seem to address all of these factors, making it important to have a holistic approach while making policy decisions.

    • Cecilia Rouse on the Importance of Listening to Real People for Effective PoliciesTo create effective policies, it is important to hear from a variety of people and perspectives. Being self-critical and open-minded can lead to stronger arguments and more effective approaches.

      Cecilia Rouse believes that understanding the struggles of real people is critical for creating effective policies. As an academic, she values hearing different perspectives and acknowledges the limitations of coming at the world from one vantage point. Rouse encourages people to be self-critical and open-minded in their decision-making processes. She advises that there's nothing to be afraid of in hearing from others, as it can make arguments stronger and approaches more effective. Her statements suggest the importance of listening to a variety of people to gain a fuller view of the world and make informed decisions.

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