The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences


American Capitalism after the Volcker Shock of 1980

On Tuesday, February 5, 2019, University of Chicago history professor and economic historian Jonathan Levy spoke at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. His talk, titled “Instability and Inequality: American Capitalism after the Volcker Shock of 1980,” touched on the importance of the United States Federal Reserve in global economic policymaking, the links between inequality and the Great Recession, and the roots of contemporary economic transformations.

Levy said that in his field, economic history, “the action is back in history departments” after a temporary migration to economics departments in the 1970s and 1980s. “Especially since 2008 and the Great Recession, historians have become more interested in economic questions than they were in the past.”

Class of 2021 First-Year Fellow: Max Mickenberg

As a First-Year Fellow, Max Mickenberg ’21 interned at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget under the mentorship of Cathy Solomon ’81. The following is an excerpt from his final report.

This summer, I interned at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB). CRFB is a nonpartisan and non-profit organization that focuses on educating and communicating with the public and Congress about fiscal policy. The CRFB’s mission is to analyze economic policy to better inform the public as well as promote fiscal responsibility in Congress. To do so, the CRFB regularly publishes blogs, papers, and communicates through social media about recent legislation, decisions in Congress, and updates about major fiscal news. For Congress, the CRFB often analyzes and assesses the economic effects of legislation to encourage responsible voting. For the public, the CRFB breaks down important budgetary and legislative developments as well as offers many interactive tools to explore, create solutions, and learn about the budget, the debt, and more.

A Conversation with Sheila Bair and Peter Fisher

On October 9th, the Rockefeller Center hosted a conversation between Sheila Bair — former chair of the United States Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — and Peter Fisher – Tuck School of Business professor and former Under Secretary of the United States Treasury for Domestic Finance. Ms. Bair’s tenure as chair of the FDIC overlapped with the Great Recession of 2008. Her conversation with Professor Fisher touched on indicators of economic growth and decline, structural economic changes that may have set the stage for the 2008 meltdown, and mistakes made in the aftermath.

In an interview prior to the event, Ms. Bair described her career trajectory and shared advice for students. As an undergraduate, Ms. Bair majored in philosophy, and upon graduation, she worked as a bank teller. She went on to law school, a teaching fellowship at the University of Arkansas, and then the General Counsel’s office at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).

Public Program: Living on Virtually Nothing in America

The number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million American households, including about three million children. How has this happened? Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? What do they do to survive? There are many components to this issue: low-wage labor, unemployment, inequality, disability. At the core of it, however, are the people that are finding ways to survive amongst these challenges. There are so many questions regarding the causes of extreme poverty, aid, and welfare reform.

On Tuesday, January 31st, Class of 1930 Fellow Kathryn Edin spoke to a packed audience on the challenges of income inequality and offered some answers to these important questions. Edin discussed poverty, policy, and how they affect families in America. Her lecture focused on the complex background and future of income disparity, especially the discovery of households surviving on virtually no cash income. Professor Edin’s deep examination of these increasingly broad families living in extreme poverty has “turned sociology upside down,” Mother Jones reported.

Dartmouth-Oxford Exchange Student: Eric Chen '17

Each academic term at Dartmouth College, four undergraduate students participate in the Dartmouth Oxford-Exchange program, attending the University of Oxford’s Keble College. Through this experience, students become fully immersed in the Oxford community while taking pre-approved courses and living amongst Oxford students. A Computer Science modified with Economics major, Eric Chen ’17 had the opportunity to partake in this program in the spring of 2016.

Eric initially decided to apply to this exchange program because of his interest in both studying abroad and in the history and culture of the University of Oxford. Oxford is comprised of a central university and 36 independent colleges that operate under the British tutorial system. Eric was attracted to this different teaching style, where classes meet infrequently and students spend more one-on-one time with the professors.

Dartmouth-Oxford Exchange Student: Joby Bernstein '17

The Dartmouth-Oxford Exchange Program allows up to four Dartmouth undergraduate students to attend Oxford University’s Keble College each term. These students become fully integrated within the Oxford community, living on campus, participating in co-curricular and social activities, and taking pre-approved courses. Joby Bernstein ’17, an Economics major and Public Policy minor, was one of four Dartmouth students to participate in this program last spring.

Having an interest in economics and government, Joby found this exchange program to be a perfect opportunity to combine his academic passions with his desire to study abroad. According to Joby, "the Keble exchange is unlike any other Dartmouth program, since Oxford is an academic culture shock for an American student.” By leaving the Dartmouth bubble and immersing himself in Oxford, Joby experienced a new college culture, living in a different country and in an environment without Dartmouth’s traditions.

Was Slavery Essential to American Capitalism?

We all know the booming effect that slavery had on the South’s economy. But is it possible that it was crucial to the development of the nation’s being as a whole? Would American capitalism have achieved its current structure without it? Some have contended that the surplus generated by slavery was key to the development of industrial capitalism. Economists are skeptical of such a link. Regardless, many historians and economists have a renewed interest in the relationship between the central forces of American capitalism, its origins, and how it has been influenced by slavery.

On Thursday, October 20th, this symposium analyzed the origins of American capitalism in tandem with its relationship with slavery. The panelists debated the necessity of slavery to industrial capitalism. From historic and economic standpoints, the impact of slavery on capitalism is hotly contended; essential elements of these linkages were discussed by the interdisciplinary panel.

The Multifaceted Nature of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Growth

Analyzing business models, we realize there are many components to profitable success. At the core of these models is innovative business growth. Such entrepreneurial advancements encourage continual growth, living standards, and dynamism. Continual innovation pushes for higher aspirations, inspiring ideas and pushing for an invaluable economic vigor. The growth that comes with entrepreneurial ideals helps our businesses, communities and the American economy. But how does this really happen? How can we make this possible?

On Tuesday, October 4th, Dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Business Glenn Hubbard spoke on the multifaceted nature of entrepreneurship and innovative growth. Focusing on the definition of an entrepreneur, Hubbard relayed the relationship between entrepreneurship and economic growth. The ways that our economy fuels innovation and market growth is also tied into public policy and monetary actions. Hubbard questioned which policies best support this entrepreneurial innovation, even taking the 2016 presidential campaign into account. Dean Hubbard also reflected on the unique role that universities can play in the entrepreneurial process.

Links between Financial Markets and the American Economy

Accredited as the world’s most powerful bank, the Federal Reserve’s concentration of power is positively linked to global financial markets and our own economic success or failure. An efficient financial system plays a significant role in GDP growth and American prosperity, while adverse financial setbacks can have catastrophic effects on economic activity and employment. Recent controversy has erupted over the Fed’s lack of transparency; during the primaries, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton endorsed proposals to reform the structure of the Fed. Additionally, federal reform is now included in the Democratic platform. How will these prospective changes affect our Federal Reserve, the American economy, and global financial markets?

Notes from the Field: Sam Libby ’17

Sam Libby ’17 interned at the National Economic Council during 2015 Fall Term. The following is adapted from his internship report.

The National Economic Council (NEC) is part of the Executive Office of the President and is the primary advisory body to the President on U.S. and global economic policy. The NEC also coordinates with state, local, and federal agencies on domestic and international economic issues along with spearheading many of the President’s economic initiatives.

As an intern, Sam worked with the skills policy group within the NEC, which handles workforce data sharing, licensing reform, the TechHire initiative, and other proposals that aim to help millions of Americans return to work. His days were filled with an array of meetings, research and analysis, and other office tasks.

More specifically, his team helped to provide disadvantaged youth, the long-term unemployed, veterans, and minorities with the necessary skills to succeed in the modern workplace.


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences