Widgets Magazine

Policymakers, scholars present state of the economy

The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and the Bill Lane Center for the American West hosted the first annual State of the West Symposium last Friday. The event aimed to motivate a lively discourse about the economic and fiscal health of the western United States and Pacific region.

John Williams, an executive vice president at the San Francisco Federal Reserve, was a featured speaker at Friday's State of the West symposium. The conference concluded with a keynote address from Brian Schweitzer, the governor of Montana. (MEHMET INONU/Staff Photographer)

The symposium commenced with an address on the West’s economic outlook by John C. Williams, executive vice president and research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

“After what was perhaps the worst recession of the postwar era and a recovery that proceeded in fits and starts, the economy finally seems to be attaining escape velocity,” Williams said. “That is to say, the recovery appears increasingly to be becoming self-sustaining, driven primarily by private-sector demand rather than relying so much on government support.”

A subsequent talk, moderated by SIEPR director John Shoven, broached the topic of state pension liabilities. It centered on a debate between Joseph Dear, chief investment officer of California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), and California state assemblyman Joe Nation, who is also a professor of the practice in public policy.

The pensions debate was followed by a panel discussion on climate change policies and investments in alternative energy. Jon Christensen, executive director of the Bill Lane Center, moderated the discussion, which featured professors Lawrence Goulder and Donald Kennedy, as well as Nancy Pfund of DBL Investors.

Another talk focused on the effects and challenges of the “Great Recession.” It included commentary from Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast; Kenneth Rosen of UC Berkeley and David Kennedy, co-director of the Bill Lane Center.

The symposium wrapped up with a keynote address by Brian Schweitzer, governor of Montana.

– An Le Nguyen