Story By: Megan Combe
A group of students and faculty from the University of Utah gathered on Oct. 26 to hear one man’s opinion on what is wrong with the American economy. The speaker, Floyd Norris, is the chief financial correspondent for The New York Times. The message that Norris gave to his audience was one that has been repeated often: “There is no way out of this crisis.”
Norris communicated four specific points that he believes to be crucial to reviving the American economy:
• The banks need to take responsibility for their actions. The government, as Norris explained, cannot continue to bail out the banks based upon the banker’s speculation, as this was what led to the economic downturn in 2008.
• Norris explained that the debt overhang is one of the largest factors that has kept our economy from correctly functioning. “The debt that we have is insane and extremely tricky,” said Norris.
• Norris expressed his self-proclaimed “idealistic” hope that one day, people would be willing to pay higher taxes if it would benefit the country. “Presumably,” said Norris, “it is a better idea to fire teachers than to increase taxes to provide what used to be the most basic of public services.”
• Norris believes that “inflation could help” the current economic situation. Since the United States is over 14 trillion dollars in debt, some economists believe that inflation would lead make the dollar worth less, and would subsequently lead to the United States owing less money to the creditors. Norris described this as “a minority view that is held by some of the best economists.”
• Norris quoted Herman Cain in saying, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks; if you aren’t rich, blame yourself.” He went on to explain that Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury under President Herbert Hoover, first expressed the attitude that if someone was poor, and wiped out from the depression, it was their own fault. Mellon and Hoover both held the attitude that “enterprising people would pick up the slack from the less confident people,” as Norris put it. This attitude has never disappeared, and Norris believes that people need to be rid of this attitude to fix the financial issues at hand.
The audience had a mixed reaction to Norris’s thoughts on how to heal the American economy. Abbie Owens, a student at the University of Utah, said: “Norris did not bring anything new to the table. He expressed the same concerns about the economy that many people do, but did not present any tactical or inventive solutions. Anyone who is familiar with business and economics should have been embarrassed for him.”
McCall Cottle, also a U. of U. student, said that “Norris didn’t strike me as a incredible speaker, but I thought that his points were valuable. I enjoyed this forum very much.”
Norris also writes a weekly column for the financial section in The New York Times. He currently lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with his wife and son.