World Leaders, Policymakers,

and Experts

The Honorable Robert E. Rubin

Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations, and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury



On driving economic growth versus reducing national deficits: “[T]here is this raging debate between the question of whether we should focus on jobs and growth, given our economic situation, or we should focus on deficit reduction. I think that’s an absolutely false choice.”

On combining short-term stimulus with long-term deficit reduction: “I believe what we should do—and should have done already—is to have a serious deficit reduction program, combined with stimulus, and that the deficit reduction program should be enacted now, but the implementation should be deferred for two or three years to give the recovery a little more time to get traction. […] If you’d had that combination, you’d have the benefit both of the stimulus now—creating demand at a time we have a terrible paucity of demand—and you’d also have a significantly increased confidence.”

On America in an age of globalization: “As to the long term, all of us know that there is a historic transformation of the global economy underway with global revolution in technology, with the rise of the emerging market countries (China, India and the like), the competitiveness of their workforces and the rapid increases of productivity in those countries, the broad increase in the range of tradable goods and services, and a great deal else. I believe in that context, the United States has enormous comparative advantages and enormous strengths. We are a dynamic society, we have an entrepreneurial spirit, we have flexible labor [and] capital markets, we have the rule of law, we have vast natural resources—now greatly increased by the vast new reserves of oil and gas because of the shale technologies—and much else. Therefore, in my opinion, we should succeed, and I continue to believe that when all is said and done, when you weigh all the pluses and minuses, that in terms of investment, the United States will continue […] to be in many respects the best place in the world to have at least some significant part of one’s assets.”

On income inequality: “[O]ur income distributions are a very serious economic issue, as well as a social and moral one. [...] In order to have public support for market based economics and trade, which are so central to growth, the predominance of the public has to believe they will benefit from those policies. And that gets you right back to the question of income distribution. In addition, the income distribution problems that we have today—stagnation of median and real wages and growing inequality—are a real threat to our social cohesion, and I think they’re a threat to the traditional and historical belief of Americans in the future of our country. And I think they also pose a threat to our political system.”

On the need to act preventively: “It is possible that we could muddle through our current fiscal outlook without the kind of severe effects that I mentioned a moment ago. But I think the predominant probability—the overwhelming probability—is that if we do not act preventively, then sooner or later we are going to be forced to act…. [F]urthermore, the longer we wait, the deeper becomes the hole, the harder it is to reestablish confidence, the harsher the measures will have to be. And if we don’t act preventively, than that will get us into a world of even harsher and more difficult measures. So I believe the danger is grave. I think we must act...and I think it is extremely important—I would say close to imperative—that we act sooner rather than later.”

On the challenges of the current U.S. political landscape: “The problem that we now face is that mainstream policy analysts...would probably agree with my description of the challenges, and while there’d be all kinds of differences about specifics, I think mainstream analysts—even with very different philosophical views and very different view on specifics—could find common ground to move forward effectively on our fiscal challenges and on all of the policy challenges I’ve just mentioned. The problem, however, is that the politics, as all of you know, [are] extremely difficult in every one of these areas. Thus, I believe that the ultimate challenge, and the challenge upon which the economic future of our country depends, is political will and the effectiveness of our political system.”

On making the U.S. political system work: “I believe our economic future is dependent on the effectiveness of our political system. And I think that all of us as citizens have many ways that we can try to influence that possible outcome by emphasizing to our elected leaders that we expect them to act with seriousness, and that we expect them to engage in a constructive way in making our political system work.”

On considering an uncertain economic future: “I think it is sensible and prudent to plan on a continuation on an unusually high level of uncertainty with respect to the outlook. [T]hat means both a meaningful probability of positive outcomes, but also a meaningful probability of significant difficulty. […] I think that as we plan whatever we’re going to do—as business people, investors, policymakers, all the like—we need to take into account significant probabilities on both ends […] of the spectrum.”

[T]he outlook for the United States economy, short and long term—and, I would add, for the global economy as well—is the most complex and uncertain in my lifetime.”


Rubin: Leaders "behind the curve" on Euro crisis

CBS News

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In times of trouble, investors can build a bridge

John Wasik, Reuters

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Rubin Says Europe Still Faces Risks in Search for Stability

Ian Katz, Bloomberg

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Rubin cool to idea of QE3

Greg Robb, "MarketWatch," Wall Street Journal

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Interview at the Atlantic's Economy Summit

Gregory Ip interview of Robert Rubin, The Atlantic

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Rubin Says He Has Too Many Dollars 13 Years After Departing U.S. Treasury

Nina Mehta, Bloomberg

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Rubin: Germany has big interest in solving crisis

Ronald D. Orol, "MarketWatch," Wall Street Journal

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