USC Upstate News

Congressman Inglis Engages in Policy Discussion With USC Upstate Business Faculty

01- 15- 2009

Spartanburg, S.C. - On Monday Congressman Bob Inglis met with a group of faculty from the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics at the University of South Carolina Upstate for a discussion on the economic impact of various policy options.

Bob Inglis“I was very interested in having roundtable discussions on the economy – from what has gone wrong and what has gone right,” said Inglis. “Having access to this knowledge base is very insightful and helpful.”

Inglis is holding a series of meetings and discussions with national economists and area professors at Upstate colleges and universities to help gauge the most effective policies and ideas moving forward.

Opinions varied in a free flowing discussion of policy topics ranging from liquidity and the velocity of money to the impact of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to the effect on the economy of more layoffs to pure economic policy vs. political economic policy. However, the whole group was in agreement that even though the economic outlook is bleak at the moment the country is not headed toward another Great Depression.

Dr. Elizabeth Cole, associate professor of accounting, said “It’s cyclical and natural to have businesses close and people be out of work. The media has jumped on this and predicted that we are headed for another Great Depression and that’s just not true.”

Sharing Cole’s opinion was Dr. Rob Routman, assistant professor of business law and tax. “Consumer expectations and confidence are shaped by the media. Unfortunately we had a recession occur during a presidential campaign and it received tremendous media coverage. This resulted in consumers not spending as much. When Obama takes office and the fiscal stimulus package takes effect, I think consumer confidence will improve.”

The possibility of a bailout for the auto industry received much focus during the roundtable discussion. While most people in the general public think the purpose of the bailout is to save the tens of thousands of jobs of the auto workers, Dr. Bill Word, professor of economics, says the intent of the bailout is for auto makers to produce greener cars.

“But, as long as gas prices remain relatively stable, Americans don’t want smaller cars,” said Word. “We need to raise the national gas tax in order to correct the fundamental structural problems with the economy. We have to solve the trade deficit problem because this country has been overleveraged for far too long.”

Dr. Steve Caldwell, assistant professor of management, described a “new car psychology” and predicted a psychology retrenchment. “Today it is perfectly fine to drive a car for eight or nine years. Right now we are seeing overinflated and over-stimulated consumerism. I don’t think we are headed for a depression but it will rather be a correction with a lot of pain. Consumers will be returning to ‘normal’ and that is where people will buy what they can actually afford instead of being overextended on credit.”

While Inglis looked to the group for help in economic forecasting, Dr. Faruk Tanyel, professor of marketing, pointed out, “Usually we look to the past to predict the future. But with today’s global economy that is just not possible. There are just too many unknown factors.”

Inglis agreed that this country has never seen a crisis like the one presented by the mortgage industry. He thinks interest rates were too low for too long and with homeowners able to borrow 110 percent of the homes values, they were set up for failure. “Both the public and private sectors are to blame for this catastrophe. Banks bought packages without doing their due diligence and the executives compensation packages were tied to the growth patterns. We have all overdosed on credit.”

Dr. Darrell Parker, dean of the Johnson College of Business and Economics, was impressed that Inglis sought out input from his faculty members and thankful to have the interaction with the Congressman. “USC Upstate has premier economists and business faculty members so I am thrilled that Congressman Inglis would turn to them for knowledge. These are challenging times for policy makers.  I am impressed that the Congressman is seeking this type of expertise.”

Bob Inglis Group
Dr. Darrell Parker addresses the group, including Congressman Bob Inglis, Dr. Elizabeth Cole, Dr. Elnora Stuart, and John Perry

Inglis also discussed with Parker and Dr. John Stockwell, chancellor of USC Upstate, the impact of the state budget cuts on the University.

“Building human capital is most important,” said Parker. “Our students have to come out understanding business enterprise, capitalism, sustainability, and globalization.”

Stockwell stressed the importance of the funding for the University’s library that has been deferred for several years now. The University’s current library was built to accommodate 2,000 students but enrollment is currently at 5,000 students with projected growth to reach 10,000 in the coming years. Stockwell cited the work of the Task Force on College Degree Attainment as justification for this project.

Currently only 19 percent of adults (age 25 and up) living in Spartanburg County have earned a college degree. This falls far behind the national average of 27 percent, which is limiting the future of Spartanburg’s young people and stifling the mobility of its workers. The Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce concluded that this crisis is the number one limitation on the future of the County’s economic development capacity.  Stockwell believes with greater access to USC Upstate, more Spartanburg County residents can earn a bachelor’s degree, thus attracting more knowledge-based jobs to the area.

Inglis agreed that educating more young people was needed to secure Spartanburg’s place in a global economy. “A college education is incredibly expensive so we need to make sure that we aren’t just giving diplomas to people. They need to leave college better prepared to understand the texture of life.”