By: Avishai (Jacob) Cohen  | 

Sy Syms Welcomes Noted Conservative Economist on Cusp of Election

On Wednesday, November 2, Sy Syms welcomed Dr. Kevin Hassett, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, a leading policy think-tank. Hassett’s impressive credentials include advising the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, and Governor Mitt Romney. He also taught economics at Columbia University and was a senior economist for the Fed’s Board of Governors. In addition to frequent media appearances, Hassett has also published several books. The lecture was co-sponsored by a strong lineup of clubs, consisting of the YU AEI Executive Council, YU College Republicans, Business Leadership Club, Economics Society, Finance Club, Investment Club, and Political Science Society. Around 70 students from the Wilf and Beren campuses filled Belfer 430, where Dr. Hassett delivered a short lecture and then led a question and answer session.  

Hassett’s primary topic was the impact of the 2016 presidential race - which he described as a “bonanza of uncertainty”—on the market and business. The focus was on the uncertainty of the election’s outcomes and its effects on how people will transact. Hassett advised how businesspeople can best plan for the future without knowing who may win an election and how that victory will impact their business’s fortunes both from a tax and regulatory planning perspective.

At various points, Hassett discussed how the platforms of the two major candidates would affect business, offering harsh critique for both candidates. He characterized Clinton’s platform as a negative for growth and not very economically literate. On the other side, Hassett argued that Trump’s opposition to free trade is “profoundly harmful” to the economy, and that no one seems to know what Trump would actually do if elected, possibly including Trump himself. On the minimum wage, Hassett said that raising it is “economically stupid” but pointed out that it's politically impossible to oppose raising it. Hassett believes there are better ways to help the poor, such as expanding the earned income tax credit.

Addressing his own participation in the race given his past campaign advisory roles, Hassett reported that he sat out this election cycle due to events in his personal life. Analyzing the race’s general tone, he noted the uptick in name calling by the candidates, media, and even among academics, relaying an anecdote about his son coming across a blog post calling himself the “spawn of Satan.” He suggested that a possible remedy for this vulgar language was for academic name callers to be barred from academic and professional conferences. Finally, Hassett discussed the accuracy of polls and his stance that Trump may have a path to victory because many supporters do not want to admit to a pollster that they plan to vote for Trump. He compared Trump’s journey to Reagan’s presidential bid, where many wrote off Reagan’s candidacy, but Reagan wound up sweeping most of the country.