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CONFERENCE: Jobs, Inequality, and the Role of Government

Jobs, Inequality, and the Role of Government:
Improving the Economic Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity of the U.S.

Georgetown University, Washington, DC
October 11, 2011

Soon after his State of the Union address in January, President Obama released an updated "Strategy for American Innovation." In the same month, the Department of Commerce was tasked with completing a comprehensive study of the economic competitiveness and innovative capacity of the United States by January 2012. An Innovation Advisory Board of private citizens – 15 leaders in academia, business and labor – was created to work in consultation with the Department of Commerce on this important report.

To help inform the consultation process for the report, as well as the broader public debate about economic competitiveness and innovation, the Communications Workers of America – which has a seat on the Innovation Advisory Board –co-sponsored a half-day conference with Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor and the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The conference, featured leading experts on the U.S. economy, discussed the crucial challenges to the nation's competitiveness and capacity for innovation, outlined elements of an agenda for meeting those challenges, and focused on two key issues: job creation and inequality and the role of the public sector in innovation.

Click here for a summary of the proceedings or on the participants' names for a video of their presentation.

Opening Remarks

Larry Cohen, Communications Workers of America
Abby Cohen, Goldman Sachs
Jason Furman, National Economic Council

Panel 1: Competitiveness, Job Creation and Inequality

Over recent decades, the U.S. economy has been restructured largely to the benefit of the financial sector, and at the expense of other sectors of the economy. Economic growth and job creation require that we rebalance the economy so that finance plays a smaller role and workers' wages are reconnected to economy-wide productivity growth through collective bargaining and other policy levers. Policies that support innovation and competitiveness and encourage value-added production and services in the U.S. can help us move from a debt driven economy to one based on rising household incomes and wealth.

Moderator: Ed Montgomery, Georgetown School of Public Policy

Richard Freeman, Harvard University
Margaret Blair, Vanderbilt University Law School

Panel 2: The Role of the Public Sector in Innovation

Public investment in research and development, education, training, and infrastructure are
essential to the economic growth of the U.S., improving economic competitiveness, and
increasing innovative capacity. Plans for robust public investment -- areas like broadband,
health research, and clean energy -- are crucial to promoting the United States’ global

Moderator: Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Matthew Keller, Southern Methodist University
J. Erik Garr, PricewaterhouseCoopers
Kate Gordon, Center for American Progress

Respondent: Mark Doms, Department of Commerce