Ex-Treasury Secretary says cooperation vital to recovery

VIENNA, W.Va. – Good economic recovery can only happen when the government effectively addresses its responsibilities, a former U.S. treasury secretary said Wednesday in Vienna.

Robert Rubin, the 70th U.S. secretary of the treasury, spoke at the Parkersburg Country Club during the Economic Roundtable of the Ohio Valley’s 2013 Annual Meeting. Rubin was treasury secretary during the administration of President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1999.

Rubin talked about the challenges this country has in dealing with its debt, the need for elected officials to come together and compromise to find solutions to the problems the country is facing and the need for new investment opportunities.

“We are in extraordinarily uncertain times and that makes decision making very difficult,” he said. “There are a lot of uncertainties and those need to be a part of the decision-making process.”

How the country fares economically depends on whether it has effective government, Rubin said.

“The U.S. has tremendous strengths,” he said. “I think we should be successful in the 21st century.

“I do believe we could be the best major country in the world to engage in economic activity and to invest in. To accomplish that, we have to meet our policy challenges, getting back on a sound fiscal path, building up our infrastructure and reform in areas like energy, health care and education. Ultimately, whether we realize our potential depends on whether we meet those challenges.”

Despite the partisan politics in Washington, D.C., and the state of dysfunction, Rubin said he believes the U.S. government will get itself back on track.

“My basis for that is our history of resilience and dynamism, but there are no guarantees for that,” he said.

One way for elected officials to come together is to be able to compromise.

“People are not always going to agree, but what has happened historically is a willingness to compromise,” Rubin said. “I don’t think our democracy can work without a willingness to compromise. We have lost that.”

Even with the partisan politics of the Clinton era, a lot was accomplished on a bipartisan basis, “after all the yelling and screaming was done,” Rubin said.

“At the end of the day, on most issues most of the time, there was a willingness in both parties to come together, compromise and move forward,” he said. “We had a lot of success on issues that were important to the country.

“Now, Congress won’t do anything on a bipartisan basis unless there is a crisis or a special set of circumstances,” Rubin said.

Even with the fiscal clift and sequestration situations, there has not been a significant market effect to compel elected officials to take specific action, Rubin said.

“Sequestration is terrible, will create fiscal drag and it arbitrarily cuts across the whole government,” Rubin said. “It is terrible, but it hasn’t really affected the market.”

“We haven’t really had a crisis that people have felt. Until they feel a crisis, our elected leaders don’t seem to have a willingness to work together.”

Rubin said he believes strongly in the future of the United States.

It is still up to the people to participate in their government to effect change, he said.

“In an environment where our government is so troubling dysfunctional, I think all of us can make a difference by participating in our democratic process,” Rubin said.