Business Q & A

5 questions with Glenn Hubbard

Glenn Hubbard
Glenn Hubbard Courtesy photo

Glenn Hubbard is part of the Republican establishment.

He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, was an adviser to Mitt Romney in 2012 and is the current dean of the Columbia University Business School in New York.

Hubbard, who spoke Thursday at Butler Community College in El Dorado, thinks we must cut Social Security and Medicare for the rich in order to reduce the national debt and have enough left over to help struggling low-income workers.

Q. You talk about the need to reduce the federal debt and entitlements. How would you sell that as a priority to the economic losers of globalization who may be supporting Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders?

A. I think they’re the big winners from it. … We need to be doing more to support wages and work for low-income Americans, and we need to do more to prepare people for success for the labor market that we actually have. To do that means we have to take a hard look at the budget, to say, “Well, to do more of something, we going to have to do a bit less of something,” and, to me, it means trimming the rate of growth of Social Security and Medicare benefits for more affluent Americans.

Q. What’s your take on immigration?

A. High-skilled people, the U.S. should want as many as we can have. I mean, I’m dean of a school where 40 percent of my students are not Americans. It would be my dream that every one of those young men and women work in our country. They are the smartest people on the planet; why wouldn’t I want that?

Then there is a second debate over low-skill immigrants, and that’s harder because there is evidence on both sides about the effect on the wages for domestic low-income people. To me, that’s a debate about helping people and supporting work, a more generous tax credit, things like that, rather than stopping immigration.

Q. What’s driving income inequality?

A. The biggest drivers are globalization and technological change, but I do worry about things like zoning restrictions that can make things like housing prices rise in value for people who already have assets and hurt people who don’t already have assets. And we do have a situation where with a large government we have people who try to advantage themselves, and we ought to be vigilant about that.

Q. How soon will the increase in the debt start cutting U.S. economic growth?

A. I think it’s very soon. If we had this discussion 15 or 20 years ago, we’d talk about “over the horizon” or “when the baby boomers retire.” Well, that’s happening now. We have an unsustainable debt burden, and the math is that we’ll have to raise taxes so much that it will kill growth or cut everything else to pay for it.

Q. If Trump is the Republican nominee, would you vote for Hillary Clinton?

A. I might write in my own name. Not sure. But I cannot vote for Donald Trump.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis