US Economy

Introduction to “The State of American Capitalism”

July 28, 2019  • Daniel R. Porterfield

Aspen Institute President and CEO Dan Porterfield delivered the below introductory remarks at the opening session of the 2019 Aspen Economic Strategy Group meeting, “The State of American Capitalism,” on July 28, 2019 in Aspen, CO. Follow him on Twitter @DanPorterfield.

It’s a privilege to introduce this conversation on “The State of American Capitalism,” part of our McCloskey Speaker Series and the kickoff event for this year’s meeting of the Aspen Economic Strategy Group.

Thank you so much to Bonnie and Tom McCloskey for making this series possible, and to Hank Paulson and Erskine Bowles for your leadership of the Aspen Economic Strategy Group. It’s also a pleasure to welcome our immediate past Board Chair, Bob Steel, and other Institute Trustees here today.

70 years ago, in the aftermath of World War II, a group of business leaders and academics led by the industrialist Walter Paepcke came together beneath these majestic mountains to reflect upon how, with all our flawed and fragile humanity, we could preserve a free, just and equitable society.

This is both the vision of the Aspen Institute and the calling of capitalism in American democracy. Today’s conversation, and the Aspen Economic Strategy Group, are manifestations of that calling.

We are joined by former Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, who was responsible for guiding U.S. monetary policy and serving as one of the most influential voices in both the American and global economies. Dr. Yellen was formerly the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and is a Professor Emerita at the University of California-Berkeley. She is now a distinguished fellow with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution.

We’re pleased that Kevin Warsh joins us as well—a leader in finance and economic research who served as a member of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve for a brief period during Dr. Yellen’s tenure and was a representative to the G-20. Prior to his service at the Federal Reserve, Kevin served as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Executive Secretary of the White House National Economic Council. He is now a Shepard Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Economics at the Hoover Institution.

Today’s conversation will be moderated by Neil Irwin. Neil is the author of How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World and was a founding staff member of The Upshot, The New York Times site for analytical and explanatory journalism. Neil is now the senior economics correspondent at The New York Times.

As we host convenings of influential thinkers and leaders, like we’re doing today, the Aspen Institute is also working around the country, in practical and nonpartisan ways, to promote economic, educational, and social opportunity—so critical in today’s rapidly-changing, science- and tech-driven global knowledge and innovation economy.

For example, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, we created the American Talent Initiative, which in just two years has helped propel 7,291 additional low- and moderate-income students to the very top universities in America.

Supported by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, we are working with 100 new community college presidents in the next few years to increase pathways from school to good jobs for hardworking students, many of them adults.

At the same time, we believe we have a special responsibility to find, do, join, and support work in grassroots communities.

That’s why, led by Vice President Cristal Logan, we’re working to develop the next chapter of our service to young people and vulnerable communities right here in the Roaring Fork Valley.

It’s why we’ve teamed up with the columnist David Brooks through our project called Weave: The Social Fabric Project to elevate the work and the voices of women and men solving problems in local communities by bringing people together and rejecting “us vs. them” thinking.

And it’s why, in early September, we’ll announce seven- and eight-figure investments in our efforts to expand opportunities in rural communities and to get out-of-work, out-of-school young people onto pathways of productivity.

This is what we are supposed to do—to make positive change by inspiring open dialogue and empowering leaders to solve society’s biggest challenges.

I feel particularly proud today to say that among our partners all across the United States—from Detroit to the Delta, from Oakland to the eastern Carolinas—are a great many local leaders working for change in the City of Baltimore.

The Aspen Institute loves the people of Baltimore. There’s Sarah Hemminger, who runs a youth program and is a leader in David’s Weave network. There’s the Ingoma Foundation, which works with us to create jobs and hope with and for young people. There’s the school system leaders who convened here three weeks ago with our Education and Society Program. There’s Johns Hopkins University, a leader in the American Talent Initiative. There’s a whole cluster of partners we convened to create a youth physical fitness strategy called State of Play: Baltimore.

I’m from Baltimore, and I’d like to think today that we’re all Baltimoreans.

Thank you for being here, and please join me in welcoming Janet Yellen, Kevin Warsh, and Neil Irwin to the stage.