A Conversation Over Dinner

If someone correctly predicted, back in September, who would win the Super Bowl you would listen to him, right? What if you met a person who told you in the morning what the winning numbers in the lottery would be – and they were right? You would likely listen to what they had to say when it came to the future.

Tonight, I had such an opportunity. Every year for the past four or five years, I have emceed the Just Harvest Celebration Dinner. I was asked to do it back in year one and have kept my relationship with the group whose sole purpose is to feed the hungry. Now I will admit, at times, their annual gathering can get a little political ( often leaning liberal ) and it’s not by accident they hold the dinner so close to the election.

Robert Kuttner: He predicted the economic collapse so what eles does he know about our country’s future?

This year’s speaker was Robert Kuttner. He’s the editor of the liberal political magazine The American Prospect and the author of a few books. In his last book, The Squandering of America he correctly predicted the current economic crisis we are dealing with … and he did this more than a year and a half ago. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who saw this economic collapse coming. With that as his credential, I thought I would ask him about the future.

I started by asking him who he thought would win this election. I guess I should have looked at his bio. His new book is Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency. So I decided to ask him something different: what did he say as the future of our country when it comes to the economy no matter who wins on Tuesday.

His belief is that amid this great collapse, we have a great opportunity to change the way our economy runs. His premise goes beyond raising and lowering taxes. It’s about investing our dollars not to bail out banks, but to invest in people and homeowners. He believes its about a philosophy where government can do the right thing and admitting markets have gotten it wrong. Most of all, it’s about addressing the inequality that exists between rich and poor, one that has squeezed out the middle class.

Whether you agree or disagree with his premise, it was interesting to hear someone make a well organized and constructed argument. He also made a point – and I’m sure he was envisioning Barack Obama when he said this – that whomever becomes the President will face a crisis not scene since the Great Depression. He says the next President, in this crisis, will come out either being Franklin Roosevelt or Herbert Hoover. That’s quite a statement.

I thought I would share this experience with you because in this campaign where we continue to see people take one side and assume they know the other half of the argument, you can actually learn something by listening to the other side. I’m sure if I had the same conversation with a conservative analyst, I would learn something new as well. Like with Kuttner, I would not accept everything but I would see their side much clearer.

I guess my only regret is that I did niot ask Kuttner who would win this year’s Super Bowl.

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