As part of the Ralph Nye Lecture Series in the Goddard School of Business, Floyd Norris of The New York Times presented “What’s Wrong with the American Economy?” on Thursday.
“The New York Times has a reporting philosophy in respect to the economy that’s fairly specific,” said John Hoffman, business instructor at Weber State University. “He’s a man who is close to decision-making in financial assistance that the government feels necessary in stimulating the economy, including the jobs field.”
The lecture was put together by the Sociology Club, which Hoffman is also involved in. The club has worked with The New York Times in the past and has brought journalists periodically to make presentations at WSU. Some of the articles have become a part of the curriculum in the business and social science departments.
“The school has a relationship with the Times, but more through the social sciences college,” Hoffman said.
Norris has been involved in many different aspects of the newspaper business and journalism. Since the 1990s, he has worked in the financial aspect. His ideas were presented to a packed crowd in the Smith Lecture Hall. Many issues were brought up through the presentation.
Norris brought up Herman Cain, a presidential candidate, who said, “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a good job, and you’re not rich, blame yourselves.” Using this quote, Norris said Americans used to take for granted government efforts to improve the economy. He said they did this instead of trying to find good jobs.
During the lecture, stimulus plans were discussed, and some participants described how people come up with an attitude toward the plans that didn’t work before, which keeps others from working. They said Congress also seems to block any new job proposals. Norris said he disagreed with this viewpoint and pointed out that America needs more stimulus now than ever before.
Norris said he was pleased to announce that the government administration created a plan to extend the benefit of low interest rates to those who need it the most.
“Mortgage rates now are among the lowest we’ve ever seen,” Norris said. He said a lot of people have refinanced their homes, but the people who need the most help can’t refinance. This plan, Norris said, will help them to refinance and make payments easier due to the lower interest rates.
Norris said a lot of the suffering he mentioned was of people who bought homes they couldn’t afford, and he said it did not feel right to help people like that. He mentioned a person who bought a house and refinanced it a few times and was being paid $100,000 a year by lenders. He said this person just walked away. He also said lending standards were reduced, and there was confusion with the paperwork so they couldn’t foreclose. He explained that mortgage companies are trying to find solutions to stop these situations from reoccurring.
Norris said public distrust of the government is very high in America. “People don’t think the government can do what is right,” he said. Norris said that, in a past poll, public trust for the government was only 10 percent. He said it was at 20 percent during the 1980s economic crisis.
“I think an attitude of joint sacrifice would be welcome to this country,” Norris said. He said he longs to hear someone say they love the country, want to help it and are proud to pay taxes. In this case, he said public trust might rise if the right attitude was present.
“People think it is better to do that than to pay taxes,” Norris said, “better than what the government can do to provide the most basic of government services.”
Norris said he wants to see an attitude of pragmatism rather than an ideology.
“We need to pick tax changes that will have the most economic benefit, even if that means people who have political power would have to pay,” he said. He said he wants to see the economy allocate capital wisely. Using the words of Winston Churchill, he said, “Markets are the absolute worst ways to allocate capital, and when you ask governments to do it, they don’t do it well.” He said ill-considered regulations can make things a lot worse in relation to markets.
Many of Norris’ ideas and solutions sparked a lot of questions from the audience, and Norris answered every question. One big question he answered was on the tax issue. He said he believes rates should be lowered, and the many deductions should be gotten rid of.
“I believe the biggest break we should get is the mortgage tax deduction,” Norris said.