Sanders spars with Federal Reserve Chairman

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(Host) Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan appeared before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday to present his semiannual report on monetary policy. The Greenspan appearances provided committee member Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders with a chance to spar with the nation’s leading economic soothsayer.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Alan Greenspan leaned forward on his elbows and took a drink of water as Sanders began the windup to his question for the Fed Chair.

(Sanders) “I always enjoy your presentations, as you know, I never cease being astounded about how your observations about our economy are so far removed from the reality that I see every day in my state.”

(Zind) Sanders cited figures showing an increasing number of Americans are falling into poverty as manufacturing jobs are replaced by lower wage, service industry jobs. He said only a few people are benefiting from the current economy.

(Sanders) “Many of your friends, the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well.”

(Zind) As his time wound down, Sanders asked his question. Does Greenspan believe that it doesn’t matter if the nation’s manufacturing jobs are replaced by low wage jobs? Greenspan didn’t dispute Sanders’ figures. He did disagree with the conclusion that trade policies and corporate greed are to blame.

Greenspan said the jobs being created now are increasingly technical, or, as he called them, conceptual. He says workers at the lowest end of the pay scale need help improving their skills to fill these jobs.

And Greenspan agrees that the growing gap between the highest paid and lowest paid workers is a serious problem. Greenspan finished with a statement that wouldn’t have sounded out of place coming from Sanders himself.

(Greenspan) “It is very important in this country not only to have an equitable society, but to have it perceived as being equitable because no democratic system can function unless the people believe it is equitable. And I think it is crucially important for us to reduce the income inequality in this country.”

(Zind) Sanders time ran out before he could respond to Greenspan. But he said afterward he doubts the Fed Chair is really concerned about the pay inequity issue.

(Sanders) “I don’t think he stays up nights worrying about the growing gap between the rich and the poor.”

(Zind) Sanders says the better paying technical jobs that Greenspan is talking about training people for are the same jobs being moved overseas as a result of free trade policies.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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