Category Archives: Interviews

Interview in The Straddler

By James Kwak

The Straddler, an online interdisciplinary publication, has an extended interview with me, of all people, so you can see what I talk like.

This is one section I’m proud of:

“Middle class wages have been declining for ten years and stagnant for thirty years, and if you have a financial system that allows people making $15,000 a year to take out $400,000 mortgages, I don’t think that’s the fault of the guy making $15,000.  I think it’s the fault of the financial system.

“But, let’s say I’m a guy who makes $15,000 a year.  I realize, wow, I can get a $400,000 mortgage and I can live in this house for a few years, and if housing prices go up, I can flip it and I can actually make a couple hundred thousand dollars.  And let’s say I’m really clever, and I say, if housing prices go down, I’ll just walk away and I will have gotten to live in a really nice house for three years at no cost to myself.  I mean, that’s the worst, most cynical spin you can put on it, right?  But this is exactly what people on Wall Street do.  The person who is criticizing the janitor for doing this is the same person who thinks that businesses should exploit every legal opportunity to make profits.  So even if you attribute the worst possible state of mind to the guy making $15,000, he’s still just doing what any businessman should do under the circumstances.  But our national ideology somehow doesn’t allow us to think about it in those terms.”

Enjoy.

TV Doubleheader

Simon and I are both on Bill Moyers (first half) tonight. Then Simon is on Real Time with Bill Maher. Enjoy.

What I Didn’t Get To Say On Bill Maher Last Night

We could have talked more (or even the whole show) about the ideas of Mohammad Yunus.  His book, Creating A World Without Poverty, argues we should look beyond standard for-profit business and consider expanding the emphasis on “social business.”  This – among other things – preserves investors’ capital but doesn’t aim to make it grow, while serving pressing social needs with a business-like delivery model. 

Versions of these ideas came up repeatedly in a course I just finished running at MIT, with Anjali Sastry and other colleagues, in which more than 50 students put their business skills to work helping health care projects in Africa become more effective.  Muhammad is definitely right that more and more business people want to get involved in this kind of social space, and many social entrepreneurs welcome input/advice/any kind of serious contribution.

Ordinarily, we might dismiss a zero real rate of return as uninteresting to anyone who has other uses for their money – but Muhammad is quite eloquent on how such an investment is complementary to seeing more in your life and in finding ways to really help others. Continue reading

Real Time With Bill Maher, Tomorrow

Tomorrow evening I’m on Bill Maher’s HBO show, as part of a three person panel with Muhammad Yunus and Jon Meacham.  Bill runs a wide-ranging discussion covering pretty much anything that’s been in the news over the past week or so.  With Muhammad and Jon there, I’m sure we’ll get into issues of ethics and values – including whether we have let “the profit motive” become too central in our society.

In terms of other topics related to economics, my guess is we’ll talk about: Continue reading

Fun Interview with Simon

I know Simon very well, so I’m not particularly impressed very often, but I think his interview with Andrew Leonard of Salon is a fun read, even if you’re already familiar with his positions.

My favorite line?

What do we get out of the meta-financial crap? It’s not so clear that we got useful things. Did our ATM fees come down? No.

By James Kwak

The Real Halls of Power

Move over, Bill Moyers.* Simon is going to be on Stephen Colbert tonight.

If you have predictions about what Colbert is going to want to talk about, or ideas for witty comebacks, please post them. I believe Simon is traveling but will check in around 6 pm Eastern.

* Just kidding. Bill Moyers is one of our finest public servants.

Global Outlook After the Fed Cut

I talked yesterday with Steve Weisman, my colleague at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, about where the global economy is likely heading.  Steve asked very good questions about U.S. monetary policy and what effects it will have.  You can listen to our conversation here.