Financial crisis, fiscal cliff discussed at Boca event
BOCA GRANDE — Residents were treated to a tutorial on the financial crisis and much-touted fiscal cliff Thursday when a panel of four local financial experts discussed the trends, crunched the numbers and laid out projected budgets for a second Obama term and its potential implications.
Friends of the Boca Grande Community Center played host to a panel discussion at the Boca Grande Community Center auditorium called the “Economic Summit to Explore the Impact of the 2012 Presidential Election.”
The auditorium was packed with 135 participants. Moderator John Kissinger, a Boca Grande retiree and resident since 2003, has 35 years of financial experience as a commercial banker with Chase Manhattan and Sumitomo Mitsui.
Discussion included the U.S. housing crisis, Greece’s financial crisis, the Simpson-Bowles report and analysis of a presidential budget. Panelists prepared to speak about both presidential candidates, but tailored the discussion to President Barack Obama following Tuesday’s election results.
The panelists know one another well.
“There are a group of us out on the island who have gotten together for six or seven years now, and what we do is we discuss the macroeconomic issues of the U.S. and of the globe amongst ourselves,” Kissinger said. “We divided the macroeconomic issues into several different areas, like the federal fiscal policy, the domestic capital markets, the emerging markets, divisions of that sort, and certain industries to look at, like energy.”
They decided to bring their private discussions to a public forum for this event.
Retiree Walter Meanwell has more than 50 years of financial experience working in Madison, Wis., at Wells Fargo Securities.
“There was extreme pressure from various segments of Congress to extend credit in areas that didn’t make any financial sense,” Meanwell said. “Some institutions were singled out and blatantly told to increase the risky loans even though both sides, sooner or later, knew that we’d fall off a cliff.”
Meanwell said he blames Washington for pushing financial institutions to make the risky investments. In order to repair the economy, government programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid need to be restructured. He said the Obama health care plan will further add to the complications.
“We’re going to have to take (a look) at the entire fiscal situation, and that includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, along with our current deficit, and keeping always in mind that the ideal way to correct this is to grow into prosperity rather than try to cut yourself out of the deficit pattern that we’re in,” Meanwell said.
Michael Giobbe, retired, was director of research at Mosely, Hallgarten and director, executive vice president and head of the international department at Cyrus J. Lawrence Inc. and successor firms.
Jeffrey Swift has more than 30 years of experience in design, product development, manufacturing and business development with Hewlett Packard, Teledyne and Analog Devices.
Howard Hall, a Boca Grande resident, attended the panel discussion.
“It’s too bad the average citizen doesn’t understand economics as these people do,” Hall said. “As countries like China and India take over the economy, it’s most likely that a country like ours ends up as a victim.”
Bruce Birghbauer, a Boca Grande resident in attendance, said he found the discussion useful.
“They provided a simplified explanation of the credit card debt,” he said.
Kissinger said the experience was meant to be educational rather than political.
“If it turns out that there is a great demand for similar discussions down the road, then we’ll take a look at it,” Kissinger said.