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Executive Forum - Ex-secretary of labor discusses economy

March 07 2008

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, delivered a keynote address on the economy and other public policy issues of interest to the staffing industry Thursday at the Staffing Industry Executive Forum in Lake Las Vegas NV. In addition to high food and energy prices, banks have remained pensive in their mindset and tentative in their assessments of the risk that they have undertaken, largely through residential real estate and structured investment vehicles. Thus, with credit markets still in disrepair, Reich identified the current climate as a demand recession.

With regard to the upcoming Presidential Election, Reich said the major undertaking that the next administration must face is disabusing Americans of the notion that global integration is, somehow, a threat to American jobs. Although international trade and immigration are "easy demagogues," Reich explained that the biggest enemy is actually not an enemy at all, but rather a challenge - raising awareness of a fact that was implicit in the post-WWII Marshall Plan; economic growth in any country, ultimately, benefits all nation states.

Reich also spoke about serious healthcare challenges, such as Medicare, in particular, which demographic change will certainly exacerbate. The most obvious and viable way of sustaining federal programs that will benefit this anticipated spike in retired persons is by increasing legal immigration from the current level of 12%, to at least 15%.

The lesson? The prosperity that comes with economic growth depends upon effective and agile labor markets - something the staffing industry knows a thing or two about.


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