At a time when there is more rhetoric than reality in Washington, it’s nice to hear some straight talk and some real debate. We got both at the Bloomberg Washington Summit where we discussed economic issues that will dominate this election year.
The day’s highlight for me? An intense but civilized exchange over regulation of the financial sector featuring Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin and former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt. Let’s just say they agreed to disagree on the merits of Dodd-Frank and the risks facing the financial system today.
Here are some other highlights that left us all with something to think about:
- Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who once famously warned of “irrational exuberance,” told our Tom Keene stocks are cheap right now and the housing market is “moving nowhere.”
- Secretary of Housing Shaun Donovan said winter was a turning point for the housing market.
- Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker defended his dissents at the last three Fed meetings. He’s worried about inflation and thinks the economy will be strong enough to justify raising interest rates next year, not in late 2014 as the Fed has signaled.
- Former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber, an economic adviser to Mitt Romney said he thinks the President did substantial damage to their ability to solve the country’s fiscal problems by basically turning his back on his own commission. He also said the Bowles-Simpson plan could still be a starting point for a long-term deal.
- The President’s top economist Alan Krueger told us he sees signs of healing in the private sector economy, and challenged the suggestion that the President didn’t embrace his own deficit commission. He did tell Bloomberg’s Al Hunt that he never lost to Larry Summers in tennis as a student at Harvard.
The “combustible cocktail” of fiscal issues (as Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD likes to call it) must be addressed by the end of the year. Will we come up with a “balanced” solution? Without one, Van Hollen warned that the country will be in a “world of hurt.”
Peter Cook is Chief Washington Correspondent for Bloomberg Television