Last week the Washington Ideas Forum on FORA.tv brought together some of the most influential names in politics, business and journalism for a two-day event to discuss the major domestic and international issues of the day, including the Occupy Wall Street movement, new bank debit card fees, a stagnant economy and an uncertain future.
Here are a few highlights of the Washington Ideas Forum:
In 2007, millions of young Americans began their academic careers as college freshman with the hopes of starting a professional career after graduation. NBC News Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw attended several commencements across the country this year and wonders if the mood among some recent graduates will become “cynical” because of the Great Recession and the current lack of opportunities. This generation of “neo-frugalists” may actually have lower living standards than previous generations for the first time in more than half a century, he says.
Last week Bank of America received plenty of heat for instituting a $5 monthly fee on debit-card usage. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan defended the fee saying it actually is in line with the bank’s vision to be more transparent to its customers. Profit, of course, also played a part.
Vice President Joe Biden has been an outspoken defender of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not only are protestor frustrations understandable, he says, they also have a lot in common with the Tea Party movement. “At the core of these protests is the idea that the American people do not think the system is fair and that corporations aren’t playing on a level field with consumers.”
Banking and finance aren’t the only business sectors that have come under scrutiny since the recession began. ExxonMobil has been criticized for announcing huge profits at a time when the rest of the American economy has been on life support. Many say that ExxonMobil is taking advantage of unfair tax breaks, but the company’s chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson says that is clearly not the case. The oil and gas industry doesn’t enjoy special tax breaks, but it does enjoy a favorable tax code that was instituted by the government long ago to create jobs.
As CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt has overseen the company’s remarkable growth over the past decade. Even though Google continues to prosper, Schmidt is concerned about the lack of growth in the American economy and believes the government does have options to create new jobs.
In August, former Vice President Dick Cheney released In My Time, a memoir that revealed the inner workings of the Bush administration. In the book, he addresses the issues and the criticism that occurred during his tenure as vice president, including the invasion of Iraq and the treatment of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. When asked if he had any regrets, Cheney pondered and then quipped, “I’d redo some of my misspent youth, but basically as far as what we did while I was vice president, we got it right, under difficult circumstances.”
Marco Rubio, the junior Republican Senator from Florida, is a top vice presidential choice among GOP party members and Tea Party activists. However, he downplayed any desire to accept the nomination: “I don’t crave the nomination. I wanted to be a United States Senator and I didn’t run to have a launching pad for an opportunity at some other job.”