Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1996-1997 index

Distributed February 14, 1997
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

`Updating the American Dream'

Journal/Brown conference to explore the economy of the 21st century

The 17th annual Providence Journal/Brown University Public Affairs Conference - Updating the American Dream: What To Expect From Tomorrow's Economy - will take place March 12-21 on the Brown campus. A national public opinion survey in conjunction with the conference will be conducted with results released March 2.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The 17th annual Providence Journal/Brown University Public Affairs Conference, Updating the American Dream: What to Expect From Tomorrow's Economy, will take place March 12 to 21 on the campus of Brown University. The conference will bring together national leaders in the public and private sectors to explore critical economic questions and the implications of fundamental economic changes facing America.

The U.S. economy appears to many observers to be in a "best of times-worst of times" period. Inflation and interest rates are low, unemployment is down, the dollar is strong - nearly all indicators point to a robust, stable economy. Yet millions of children and their families live at or below poverty, companies are downsizing, income gaps are widening, and families need two or more incomes just to get by. The promise of the American Dream - a college education, a secure job, home ownership - is becoming out of reach for more and more Americans.

In seminars, panel discussions and debates, this year's conference will examine a number of issues including the state of the U.S. economy and its challenges to the workforce, the jobs and industries that will fuel economic growth in New England and the nation, the impact of the global marketplace, the conflict between public perceptions and economic indicators, the widening gap in income and wealth, the responsibilities of corporations to their communities, and the role the state and federal government should play. All sessions are free and open to the public.

National survey to be released

For the second year, the Journal/Brown conference will incorporate the results of a national survey conducted by Brown political science professor Darrell West. This year, 600 adults aged 18 and over will be polled through the John Hazen White Sr. Public Opinion Laboratory, based at Brown. Researchers will conduct the phone surveys between Feb. 18 and 26. The Providence Journal, which commissioned and funded the survey, will publish the results in its Sunday edition, March 2, then release the results nationwide. All conference speakers and moderators will receive the survey results and will be encouraged to incorporate the findings in their discussions and debates.

"The questions we'll ask go along with the conference theme of updating the American dream," West said. "We'll look at the gap between rich and poor, company loyalty and employee loyalty, views about automation and its effects on the workplace, future training people think employees will need, and trends in the workplace and how they're affecting people's lives."

Survey respondents will be chosen randomly and distributed throughout the country, and the survey results will consider such factors as age, gender, employment status, region, income and racial background. "We'll also ask whether people have had to take a second job and whether they've been downsized," West said. He added that the contradictory trends at work in today's economy make predictions difficult: "Surveys often produce things you don't expect.... The results may comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Keynote speaker Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine, will give the Metcalf-Swearer Lecture at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 12, in Room 101 of the Salomon Center for Teaching. Kuttner, who also founded the Economic Policy Institute, has just published Everything for Sale: the Virtues and Limits of Markets (1997). In reviewing the book, Newsweek reporter Michael Hirsh states that "Kuttner delivers a powerful empirical broadside.... The excesses of today's free-market absolutism are almost as bad as those of the big-government era they ended." Kuttner is the author of four other books: The End of Laissez Faire (1991), The Life of the Party (1987), The Economic Illusion (1984), and Revolt of the Haves (1980).

The Michael P. Metcalf-Howard R. Swearer Memorial Lecture serves as the keynote address for the annual Providence Journal/Brown University Public Affairs Conference. It honors the memory of conference founders Michael P. Metcalf, former chairman and publisher of the Providence Journal Company, and Howard R. Swearer, 15th president of Brown University.

Kuttner is a contributing columnist to Business Week's "Economic Viewpoint" and was the economics editor of The New Republic. His weekly editorial column on political economic issues originates in the Boston Globe and is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post. His commentaries can be heard on National Public Radio's news program "All Things Considered." His writings frequently appear in the New York Times magazine and book review, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, and Dissent.

Kuttner has received several awards for his journalism, including the 1988 John Hancock Award for excellence in business and financial journalism and the Jack London Award for labor journalism. In addition, Kuttner has taught at Harvard's Institute of Politics, Brandeis University, Boston University, the University of Massachusetts. He has been a John F. Kennedy Fellow at Harvard, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Berkeley, and a Guggenheim Fellow. Previously, he served as chief investigator for the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, as a national staff writer for the Washington Post, and as the executive director of President Carter's National Commission on Neighborhoods.

Updating the American Dream:
What To Expect From Tomorrow's Economy

All sessions take place in Room 101 of the Salomon Center for Teaching

The Metcalf-Swearer Lecture
Wednesday, March 12, 8 p.m.
"The New Economy: Where Is It Taking Us?"

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor, The American Prospect

Thursday, March 13, 4 p.m.
"The World of Work in the 21st Century: Forces of Change in the Workplace"

Claudia Goldin, professor of economics, Harvard University

Thursday, March 13, 8 p.m.
"The World of Work in the 21st Century: Finding Tomorrow's Workers"

Cathy Minehan, president, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, moderates a panel discussion with

Monday, March 17, 8 p.m.
"Steering Economic Policy: A Debate on the Clinton Budget"

Susan Dentzer, chief economics correspondent, U.S. News & World Report, moderates a panel discussion with

Tuesday, March 18, 8 p.m.
"Corporate Citizenship: What Does It Mean?"

Paul Solman, business correspondent, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, moderates a panel discussion with

Wednesday, March 19, 8 p.m.
"The Growing Divide: Inequality in America"

Thursday, March 20, 4 p.m.
"Where is Rhode Island Headed?: Our Emerging Economy"

(co-sponsored by the Rhode Island Public Expenditures Council)
Gary Sasse, executive director, RIPEC, moderates a panel discussion with

Thursday, March 20, 8 p.m.
"Where is Rhode Island Headed? The Jobs Equation"

Eleanor McMahon, visiting professor of public policy, Brown University, moderates a panel discussion with