Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rutgers University Faculty Convocation Address: Next Stop RU

On behalf of my faculty colleagues, welcome to Rutgers. You join Rutgers at an awesome time. Our move to the Big Ten will offer you lots of opportunities to build school pride, but our shift will also offer you more academic choices.

The goal of my remarks is to get each of you to make several commitments. No, not to take the ALS ice bucket challenge, but to commit to “advancing the common good”, the mission of United Way World Wide, the nation’s largest charity.

How can you “advance the common good?”

Simply put, commit your Rutgers experience to becoming a life-long learner, an independent thinker, and a responsible citizen.

Why a life-long learner? At my father’s retirement luncheon, his fellow computer scientists commented on how he was always learning, always reinventing himself, and always making himself relevant. As a result, he never faced unemployment during his over 40 year career. Today, he paints, plays golf and advises small businesses.

Why an independent thinker? If you ask questions, if you challenge yourself, if you make yourself feel uncomfortable, then you will fully take advantage of the amazing opportunities here.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That is how we learn best. That’s how we build character. Growing up, the father of the founder of Spanx would ask her what she failed at during the day. The question baffled her. However, over time, she learned that to become a successful entrepreneur, she needed to feel comfortable taking risk, feel comfortable in stressful situations, learn how to respond to setbacks, and learn how to accept criticism.

Why a responsible citizen? Rutgers will prepare you to solve the world’s problems because we are at the heart of the three major trends that continue to reshape our lives: globalization, technological change, and growing population diversity.

Because of our unique position, you will have opportunities to discuss and develop solutions for communities like Ferguson, Missouri, develop cures for the deadliest diseases, figure out how to get Congress to work, and in a variety of disciplines learn about the past, such that we don’t make the horrors of the past, our future. That is why we call Rutgers, a university. The universe is literally at your fingertips. Embrace it.

As I mentioned earlier, if you take full advantage of what Rutgers has to offer, at times “learning” will feel uncomfortable. Instead of your studies leading you to clarity, you may become profoundly confused, meaning you need to go to grad school.

Further, your generation has been raised in a faster-paced and more complicated world.

Because of that, I urge you to link opportunities for physical and spiritual growth with your intellectual opportunities. Linking them will create a three-legged stool on which you can sit comfortably, giving you balance in your life.

Finally, commit to complement your Instagram posts, U-tube and Vine viewing by reading at least one, short opinion piece called an Op-Ed per week in outlets such as the Targum, the New York Times, or the Star-Ledger.

In closing, on behalf of my over 5,000 colleagues, congratulations on choosing Rutgers as your next stop. Facebook’s Cheryl Sandburg urges young women to “lean in”. I ask all of you to “lean in” to your studies. Doing so will allow you to make the most of your RU experience and “advance the common good”.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Conference Announcment: Building Resilience for ALICE Households: Strengthening the Social and Economic Fabric of Society

On Thursday, September 12, 2013, I will be co-hosting with the United Way of Northern New Jersey a conference called "Building Resilience for ALICE Households: Strengthening the Social and Economic Fabric of Society".
The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University invites you to join a community-wide discussion to consider the size, scope, and impact of financially unstable households, dubbed ALICE, and their key role in New Jersey’s economy.

ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), a study of the true face of financial hardship in New Jersey, is the result of a collaboration between United Way of Northern New Jersey and Dr. Stephanie Hoopes Halpin, director of the New Jersey DataBank at Rutgers University. ALICE represents men and women of all ages and races who get up each day to go to work, but are unsure if they’ll be able to put dinner on the table each night. They are our child care workers, mechanics, home health aides, store clerks, and office assistants — workers who make our economy
run. This project revealed that one in four (770,000) households in New Jersey walks this financial tightrope, unable to afford the state’s high cost of living, one emergency from falling into poverty.

Building Resilience for ALICE Households will envision fresh public, corporate, and economic policies to strengthen New Jersey’s future. New data will be presented showing the economic effects of Superstorm Sandy on these fragile households. The impact of Sandy will demonstrate ALICE’s inability to weather a crisis — a perilous situation not only for these families but also for the entire community.

Please join us in stimulating a fresh dialogue among community leaders about how, together, we can provide ALICE with more opportunities to succeed.
10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (lunch will be provided)
John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development
Roosevelt-Perkins Room (second floor)
30 Livingston Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ

Christine Romans is the host of Your Money, CNN's Saturday and Sunday business program. In addition, Romans reports on the economy, politics, and international business for CNN’s morning shows. Her reporting is also regularly featured on CNN International. She is the author of two books: How to Speak Money (Wiley, 2011) and Smart is the New Rich (Wiley, 2010).

10:00 - 10:30 a.m.

10:30 - 11:30 a.m.
ALICE project and data overview, including new findings related to Superstorm Sandy

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Panel discussion & solutions strategy session

1:00 - 2:00 p.m.
Keynote address: Christine Romans

2:00 - 2:30 p.m.
Summation & closing remarks

Space is limited and registration is required. Click here (
to register today!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

America's Great Divide

On July 22nd, I followed up my CNBC Street Signs (7/5/13) segment on the June Jobs Report
( ) with an appearance on Power Lunch with 
Peter Henry, Dean of the Stern Business School at NYU.

Our segment ( discussed the "Great Divide" between Wall Street and Main Street.

Here are my extended thoughts on the issue.


Q. Will the "Great Divide" widen?

Unfortunately, there is a good chance that we could see a third surge in income inequality. We saw increases in income inequality during the 1980s and from 2001 to 2007. Why a new surge?

-We are in the midst of an anemic recovery, especially for youth, minorities and the less educated.

Tepid growth in Gross Domestic Product. Not strong enough to create consistent job creation in excess of 150,000.
-We are over 30 months into the recovery. Almost 40% of the jobless are classified as long-term.
-Including those that are part-time, but want full-time work, raises the jobless rate to over 14%.
-Over the past 12 months, jobless rates have fallen, but largely due to labor force departure.
-A large portion of private sector jobs have been created in industries with below average earnings. 
-Women and minorities have borne the brunt of the over 600,000 job cuts in the public sector.

 Q. What role is policy playing in helping to generate a new surge in inequality?

We are making policy decisions that are slowing investments in what the UN calls "Human Priorities." These are the building blocks of life: education, training, community resources, and social safety nets. Specifically:

State and local governments continue to cut back services and employment.
Diminished Congressional political will to invest in job creation.
Sequestration will place a drag on economic growth.
$1.2 trillion across the board spending cuts over 10-year period
$85 billion in auto cuts started March 1, 2013

–Our conscious decision to weaken the social safety net is adding more economic “systemic risk” to low to moderate income families. Job loss, natural disasters, and other economic shocks are having greater immediate, short and long-term impacts.

I have said this in early post and opinion pieces and I will say it again. As the sage auto tech said, "You can pay me now, or pay me later."


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Co-Host on Ebru TV's Fresh Outlook: Rolling Jubilee, Obamacare, the Fiscal Cliff and European Austerity

Recently, Ebru TV gave me the opportunity to co-host their one-hour weekly politics and economics show. We discussed the Occupy Movement's Rolling Jubilee, Europe's Austerity, the U.S.'s Fiscal Cliff, and Obamacare. I hope to serve as co-host in the near future.

“Fresh Outlook,” Co-host, Ebru TV, (11/17/12), 


Meet ALICE, NJs 1.1 Million Vulnerable Households

I introduce viewers to NJ's 1.1 million households who are A.L.I.C.E (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed). I discuss the causes and consequences of having one-third of your state's residents vulnerable to economic shocks and natural disasters.

"A.L.I.C.E." (11/23/12),

Recent Thoughts on the Job Market and Fiscal Cliff

The 6 point drop in December's Consumer Confidence should cause Congress and the Administration to re-dedicate themselves to forging a short-term compromise.

Here are three pieces where I describe the impacts on Main Street if we don't get to "YES".

Would Fiscal Cliff Stall Job Growth? (12/27/12)

“America’s Fiscal Cliff,” Ebru Today, (11/14/12),

“Hiring Rally Ahead?” Fox Business News, (11/8/2012),

Monday, November 5, 2012

What’s at Stake Tomorrow? An Economist’s Perspective

Tomorrow your vote will determine whether we continue a thirty-year trend toward an à la carte society.”

What is an à la carte society? It is a society where goods are priced, ordered, and purchased separately. Participation in an à la carte society is based on having the income, and for some items the wealth to purchase what you want. Of course, as a Ph.D. carrying economist, I believe that people should be able to purchase the type and amount of goods that they need and want.
My concern is that the goods which encompass the building blocks of life, such as access to basic education, quality health, and child care and soon, elder care, and a safe neighborhood are increasingly being priced and provided separately in the market place.

The decoupling of health insurance from one’s place of employment is well documented. Increased residential segregation based on race, ethnicity and class has reduced access to quality schools and safe neighborhoods. Republicans are proposing to remove the guarantee of Medicare and replace it with a voucher, and privatize Social Security. During the first Presidential debate, Governor Romney said that he will reduce funding to PBS, a long-time leader in providing early childhood education and truly “balanced and thoughtful” news.
Many low-income families and an increasing number of middle-income families don’t have the income and wealth to privately purchase these basic needs.

When and how did the à la carte society emerge? It emerged in the 1980s when we allowed policy makers to roll back worker protection laws, deregulate the economy, and privatize public goods that historically had provided Americans with a basic set of protections.
These policy shifts coincided with two investment slowdowns (the 1980s and 2000-2007) in the building blocks of life or what the United Nations call human priorities: public investments in education and training, social safety nets, income maintenance programs, community centers and parks.

The problem with placing more human priority investments on the à la carte portion of the menu is that we will not be equipping people with the tools to compete. The two surges in income equality that resulted during these periods are well documented.
The “Great Recession”, the weak jobs recovery, our past choices to slow human priority investments, and the potential to trend further toward an à la carte society has sown the seeds for a new surge in income inequality.

Today, over 40 percent of unemployment spells remain long-term. Over 8 million Americans work part-time, but want full-time employment. Another 2 million have stopped searching but would take a job if one was offered.
If these seeds of inequality germinate, it will mean on November 6th, we chose to trend further toward an à la carte society. It will mean that we chose to structurally disconnect the underemployed and long-term unemployed from the economy. It will mean that in the future, we have to invest even more resources to reconnect them.

What’s an American to do? Vote. Why?
The policies being offered provide very different visions for America. Both will generate economic growth, but have very different approaches on how to create “broad-based prosperity.” The Republican’s vision wants more of the building blocks to economic security to be à la carte, while the Democrat’s vision wants them to be widely available.

We must stop kicking the can down the road on health and retirement security. By delaying reform, we are losing the flexibility that would allow changes that have smaller adjustment costs for current and future generations. Stalling will raise the likelihood that these guarantees become à la carte options.
President Obama needs a mandate to break Washington’s partisan budget logjam. In 2008, many thought that just electing Obama would bring change. Democrats forgot about the “blue dogs”. They forgot about the number of Democrats in competitive districts. Further, Senate Democrats did not have a filibuster proof majority. Continued stalemate will slow economic growth.

Finally, former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill coined the phrase that “all politics is local.” Today, “all economics is local.” The “downstream” impacts of efforts to place more human priority investments on the à la carte portion of the menu will be greater as you move down the ballot from the presidential election to your local town council and school board elections.
Make sure that you and your friends are engaged at all levels of the ballot. Vote.