Report from the ASSA

A quick report from the 2009 meetings of the Allied Social Sciences Association (as the economists grandiosely call their meetings) in San Francisco. This will have to be short, since I am on the clock at an Internet café one block from the San Francisco Hilton at Union Square, not having brought my laptop with me on the trip. Plus I have to get back to our booth at the book exhibit to haggle with someone from the company that runs the book exhibit about the fact that two of our boxes never arrived at the booth, even though we shipped them at great expense via UPS. Ah, professional meetings!

My panel went well on Saturday. It was sponsored by the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE), and the title of the panel was Using Economics for Social Change: Five Organizations Report. The other panelists were Heidi Hartmann of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute, Kevin Danaher of Global Exchange, and David Barkin of Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco in Mexico. The panel was officiated and organized by Lane Vanderslice of World Hunger Education Service. It was quite well attended–I’d say around 50 people were there, including several familiar faces, including Randy Albelda of UMass-Boston (and a D&S associate) and Pat Duffy, URPE staffperson. A short but lively discussion period followed. I enjoyed all the talks, but I was particularly excited about David Barkin’s reports about solidarity economics activity among indigenous people in rural areas of Mexico.

The only other panel I’ve had time to visit was another URPE-sponsored panel, on minimum wages. I had hoped to catch the talk by Jeannette Wicks-Lim of the Political Economics Research Institute (she’s working on an article for D&S on a related topic) comparing Earned Income Tax Credits vs. minimum wage increases as ways of improving poor people’s living standards. I got there too late, but caught an interesting paper by Manuel Pastor of USC profiling immigrant communities in LA.

Our friend Arlene Geiger, econ prof at John Jay College, stopped by the book exhibit booth and reported that she’d gone to some mainstream panels to see what the mood of the profession is about the recession and financial crisis. She reported that one extremely well-attended panel on the financial crisis seemed to indicate that no one in the room thought that the recession would be anything but long and deep. Another packed panel entitled “The Revival of Fiscal Policy” revealed disagreements between Marty Feldstein of Harvard and John Taylor of Stanford about the value of fiscal policy. Janet Yellin of the SF Fed was a discussant (I’m missing a panel on the subprime crisis that she’s presiding over right now). I will press Arlene for a fuller report, but the impression she seemed to get was that mainstream economists still have their heads in the sand on the issue of whether government has a role in guiding the economy (even if they can’t help but recognize the need for government action in the current crisis).

Frequent D&S blogger Polly Cleveland, of Columbia U., also stopped by the booth. She’d been focusing on sessions on the history of economics, including one on the history of the Chicago School. She promised a full report for the blog.

I’m almost out of time, so I will wrap this up; I promise more coverage soon.

–Chris Sturr, D&S co-editor

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