Panel provides insight on economy

When the words “economy” and “United States” are put in the same sentence, Americans around the nation grumble and sigh in exasperation; however, the economists who met at Alan B. Miller Hall Oct. 22 hope to renew the “American dream” with regard to the U.S. economy. Professors from the College of William and Mary Mason School of Business faculty, along with Melinda Hancock ’91, CFO of Bon Secours Richmond Health System, met for an economic forum in Alan B. Miller Hall to discuss current issues regarding the U.S. economy and how these issues can be resolved.

Cathy Lewis, radio host of “HearSay with Cathy Lewis” and moderator for the forum, said that one of the goals of the discussion was to “separate fact from fiction” regarding the economy because of its role in both the presidential campaign and in our lives.

Several subjects were brought up during the discussion, such as the importance of the euro, the baby boomer generation and the need for sustainable energy. Two important issues for Americans are housing and social security.

“Lots of people ask questions about housing prices in events like this because they’re concerned about their own circumstances,” Brinkley-Mason professor of economics and finance John Boschen said. “Another thing that comes up is the issue of social security. For younger people in their 30s, 40s and even their 50s, they want to be thinking about what’s going on there. What are their retirement circumstances going to be?”

Boschen said that when the housing market begins recovering, Americans can expect to see other aspects of the economy grow as well. The forum also discussed elements of the economy that will change.

“Anyone under the age of 45 — start saving now, because you will not be getting social security,” Deborah Hewitt, Professor of Economics and Finance and Dean of MBA Programs, said.

Boschen, on the other hand, disagrees.

“I think social security can be saved with some minor adjustments, such as extending the age of retirement, limiting the rate of growth of social security benefits … and increasing the age at which one gets full benefits to 68 or 69,” he said.

Another major topic addressed was healthcare and its relationship with the economy. Hancock works extensively with healthcare reform.

“Healthcare reform is already upon us,” she said. “I think that’s a fact that a lot of people don’t recognize … our healthcare system is already deeply embedded with reform — penalties, payment systems have already been changed. We are already changing how we do business; we are already changing who we partner with, how we partner. One of the really positive things that has already come out that the Bon Secours system is very supportive of is that everything we’re doing now is increasing access to care.”

Boschen said that healthcare questions are difficult to answer and noted that for college students, thePatient Protection and Affordable Care Act is very relevant.

“If your family is lucky enough to have insurance through your mother or father, you get covered for another four to five years [more than you would] now,” he said.

Healthcare and the economy are important issues in this year’s presidential debate, but the members of the panel noted that the president and Congress will have to work together in order for changes to occur.

Hewitt also noted that the U.S. must view any country as a potential market in order to boost its own economy.

“There’s over 200 countries in the world, and we compete with every single one of them, and every single one is a potential market for us,” she said.

The panel of economists also said that college students are often more concerned about the job market than the global market.

“I think the seniors coming out this year are going to have a better job market than the past three years, and I think the juniors that will be coming out the year after this in 2014 will have an even better job market,” Boschen said.

Boschen also advised that college students actively seek career advice.

“College students have to be aware that they really have to start ‘beating the bushes’ early, looking more early, be more professional about looking…You have to start planning, making contacts, learning how to interview, and that really puts you way up ahead of a lot of people,” he said.

Several of the economists believe that the “American dream” can once again become a reality, but citizens must be activey working hard to revitalize the economy. As concluded by the members of the panel, Americans must develop a stronger work ethic and start saving now in order to invest in the future.

“It’s in our hands to be creative, innovative, and to do what you think is really best for the country and for the economy going forward,” Richard Ash, professor of Entrepreneurship and Executive Director of the Miller Center for Entrepreneurship, said.

Hewitt added that relying on yourself will probably be easier than waiting for the economy to fix itself.

“Forget about Washington,” she said. “They’re not going to create the recovery. Create your own recovery. You can never over-invest in yourself.”


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