Panel helps students understand economy

In an effort to alleviate confusion over the unstable economy and credit crunch, a panel of the College’s leading economic and political experts gathered Thursday night in the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall to simplify the economic jargon.

The panel included Andrew Carver, assistant professor of economics and finance, Susan Hume, assistant professor of economics and finance, Thomas Mahoney, general counsel at the College, Gerald Miller, associate professor and chair of accounting and information systems and Brian Potter, assistant professor of political science.

Michele Naples, associate professor of economics, agreed to moderate the discussion, organized by the Provost’s Office, because she understood the need to clear up confusion about the economic crisis.

“Few lay people understand what’s going on. Our students are no different. Presumably that’s the reason for the forum, to share information,” Naples said. “This will be an opportunity to get basic questions answered, as well as explore the implications of these changes for the next few years.”

The panelists said it was too early to develop an accurate timeline of recovery. “We’re still fearful because markets are volatile,” Hume said.

The panelists agreed that the finger of blame could not be pointed in just one direction. The fault can be equally attributed to deceitful creditors, government deregulation of credit-based policies by citizens over-borrowing, which resulted in foreclosed houses and loan payments that were counted as losses by lending firms.

“Unscrupulous mortgage brokers are not the primary culprit,” Carver said.

Potter followed up with an analogy: “If you’re at a bar, is it the tender’s fault for getting you drunk, or yours for taking the drink?”

The unspoken implications for students were also a concern.

“We’ve already had students who had to leave school because student loans they were counting on disappeared,” Naples said. “As the N.J. economy turns down, tax revenues will fall and there will be an even worse budget crunch for the state. This means state funding will again fall and there will be more budget cuts for (the College). We’re hearing that as soon as this winter, we may have to cut (the College’s) budget another 10 percent as a result.”

One of the panelists’ concerns was the the changing nature of confidence in the nation’s leadership. The “confidence crisis,” as coined by Miller, is a direct result of the government’s dependence on faulty political explanations of economics. The panel agreed that rebounding from the scarred reputations of markets, banks and leadership will be the longest battle in the recovery of the economy.

Democracy only works with an enlightened people, and only definitive resolution is in education, according to the panel.

“Be knowledgeable of the markets,” Hume said. “I urge you to be familiar with these issues.”