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Niall Ferguson on the Tea Party, budget cuts and the economy

Harvard historian Niall Ferguson is not your usual ivory tower academic. His arguments about global economics and American policy are both scholarly and topical. And he likes a fight: He and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman have done battle over the right path back to economic health: spending cuts versus stimulus.

His new book is “High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg” about the British banker who valued relationships over transactions and ethics over getting rich. Niall Ferguson joined Need to Know’s Jon Meacham to talk about those times — which sound almost mythical now — as well as to get his thoughts on our economic times and troubles.

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  • Marcella

    Niall…that accent, that voice…..He is very handsome..Can a man this smart be so sexy?..Is he married?


    What happened to Need To Know in the Dallas- Fort worth Area?

  • piotr

    Why the HELL was the question to the alleged historian unasked: “Where were the so-called structural deficits in the years 1999 -2000 (pre-george w bush), when, in fact we had a budget SURPLUS”?


  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Nonsense, Niall. Completely apart from your ideas about how to fix the economy (I’m on Krugman’s side in this debate),I can’t believe you actually think that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are a step away from fundamentalism! Their fundamentalism is absoutely central to their agenda, and it is only poorly hidden behind a mask of constitutional first principles. They want a theocracy, a marriage of church and state. How can you find that attractive?

  • Guest 5

    Sitting comfortably or unemployed?
    Either way it would not hurt if a bit ( actually a ginormous amount) if Reality and Honesty, instead of Ideology, extreme partisanship from both sides of the political aisle, along with all politicians taking thier religious beliefs off thier sleeves ( and voters letting them do that) so we can constitutionally required keep church and state separate.
    Deficit, the cause Unfunded Tax cuts cost in deficit terms $4trillion. Cost of wars from 2001 to 2009 any where between 2-5 trillion. the high number includes the higher cost of oil internationally US portion.
    The biggest spending addition during the 8 years of Republican power was Homeland security plus the expansion of Anti terrorism units in the FBI CIA NSA etc.
    Reason for recession untrammelled ( or unregulated greedy) banks and leveraged borrowing, and an Asset ,property and housing bubble… (remember America’s re-action to Japans Bubble economy… physician Japan heal thyself!!) I have several friends in Japan having spent several years working there twice, who were literally ruined and 20 years later still trying to dig themselsves out of the hole.
    QED I support, the Auto bailout, TARP was fait accompli and the last real bi partisan recent vote In congress as a whole, and without the recession would have been much worse.Also much of TARP paid back already, and some auto bailout cash… not done = at least another 1m unemployed.
    Stimulus cheap at half the price otherwise even critical economists say over 1.5m jobs saved or created., others maybe 3m saved etc.
    Then its taxes.Economics 101, dont increase taxes in a recession. However I have a compromise let the rich cuts expire now and as the economy recovers lets say, can be varied let the Under 250K cuts expire as well… more than pays for health care as it kicks in and by then we are out of Iraq and a reduced Afghanistan committment.
    And the deficit growth stops and reuction starts at $70bn 2011 onwards and $4bn 2012 onwards
    All that makes far more sense than Republican ideological pledges… thats all they are and My math says the pledges add at least $50bn to the National debt in 2011 beyond current projections.
    Guest 5.

  • Merick Chaffee

    Everyone seems concerned over the $700 billion TARP adding to the deficit. Nobody seems to know about the $13 trillion given to the big investment banks and AIG when they became bank holding companies, described by Nomi Prins in her book, “It Takes a Pillage”
    You should interview Prins to bring this matter out onto the table.

  • mc

    Talking about economy in generalities is not going to solve the current economic problems we are in.
    Damage has been done by the so-called financial institutions such as Countrywide and Goldman Sachs and the countrywide gets the credit for making many American Homeowners lose their homes. That has become irreversible. Outsourcing itself is not a major issue that is causing this problem. Most US Companies such as Citibank, Bank of America, airline industry, America online, and other credit card companies from banks need the Call Centers for their very survival.
    We should not make our country a Third World America. We should manufacture most of the goods and services in this country instead of importing from China, South Korea and other Third World Countries. The way economy goes, tells us that no one can resolve it just by sitting in Sacramento or San Francisco or Washington. They, I mean the politicians, economists, educationists, should come forward and think in terms of workable solutions. Favoritism should not be encouraged in this country. I would like to share one of the stories I read years ago about President George Washington. He had lots of friends after the American War of Independence.
    He had ‘yes man’ type of people who agreed to whatever President Washington did or said and he also had a group of people who differed with him in many respects. There was one such person; I would call Dan for simplicity. Dan was an independent worker who differed with Washington’s views and execution and Dan even voted against some of his reforms. But Dan had these remarkable qualities: a very sincere and dedicated person, always would think and act, whatever Dan did or project he undertook, he would always plan and begin well and stay until the task was completed. Sometime later there was an opening in the President’s Office itself and the President Washington was looking for someone to work with him. Hearing this many of his friends applied for this post. Our Dan (who differed with him in many aspects) also applied for this position. Some of Washington’s friends made fun of Dan and thought ‘This is Washington’s enemy; why should he even think of applying for this job?’ Dan did not bother about the friends’ comments but was confident that if we follow the guidelines and procedure well, the project should go well.
    Washington arranged for a State Dinner Party for his own staff and also invited the candidates who applied for the Government position. So his friends, who applied for this job, attended the State Dinner. And our Dan also decided to attend the party since he was also one of the candidates who applied for this job and he too received the invitation for the State Dinner. His friends as usual, looked at Dan and giggled and left. Dan, as usual, did not bother about the friends’ silly comments.
    The Dinner went on well; everyone enjoyed the dance, food, music, etc and the party ended nicely. The Office Secretary told the candidates who applied for the job, that the President would announce the selected candidate in two days. When the day came, the candidates showed up at the President’s Office and assembled in the Conference Room eagerly awaiting the announcement
    President Washington came out at the appointed time; he thanked his friends for attending the party and gave a small presentation indicating the importance of this position and what he was looking for in his candidate. Washington took out his file and said that he found one such candidate
    It was Dan who had been selected. Washington’s friends were very upset. There was another friend who was very close to Washington and he could have been hired. But his friends said they were disappointed with Washington and he was unfair in his selection of his candidate.
    What was Washington’s reply?
    He looked at his friends and said that he liked them very much; he liked to have parties with them, conversation with them, Dinners, etc with them. Washington looked at his closest friend and said
    “He was a nice man, I know. I enjoyed talking with him and having dinner with him. But he was not a man of business. This job requires someone, who are sincere and dedicated and who can work without any fear or favor. And that was Dan. So he had to choose Dan over all others”.
    His friends shut up. That was President George Washington. Do we have anyone like Washington today? If we did, we should not be going through the economic crises and uncertainties.

  • Matt

    I agree with Ferguson on the spending and would much rather see our country follow this approach than Krugman’s approach. Enjoyed this discussion…nice to hear something more important than Palin, Tea Party, or the crazy Delaware Senate candidate given TV time.

  • Nell Reece

    Social Security is not adding to the deficit, it is reducing it… for now. Why the host did not call the guest on this makes me question whether I should continue watching this program.

  • Ken_lmp

    where are the transcripts?

  • entrepreneur indiana

    For an understanding of the problem, one must look at the structure of the US monetary system and creation of money. It is vested with the Federal Reserve System…our banks. No money is put into the economy that is not borrowed and carrying interest. Banks, investors, pensions, insurance companies and now more than 50% of the population are living off of the productive ability of the 40% who do produce something. It is a clear indication that spiraling debt is now causing poverty as fewer people are supporting an exponential growth from compounding interest.

    I have no faith that the bankers will make interest in my best interest, concerning the money supply. Make a US Treasury Dollar and spend it into existance, but without the interest, as legal currency. Read “Truth in Money” and “Figuring Out the Fed” by Thoren that identified the structural problem and published in 1980.

  • entrepreneur indiana

    They were hiding in the ever collapsing requirement for less and less reserves in the bank reserve account. That was not a sudden change…simply numbers that made lending more money the goal…but also hiding huge TOTAL (government and private) debt and compounding interest. When banks are lending fourty dollars and only have one, faith in whats behind it is threatened, especially when a total collapse was reported to be narrowly avoided. Money creation should be shared with the US Treasury, not in the sole control of the FED since the compounding interest cannot even be serviced. Is this going to be like the Roman fall or are we going to solve the problem with wisdom?

  • mc

    Many American Banks are on Financial Life Support. I don’t think that banks could help resolve the current economic problems we are in which were, to some extent, created by the banks themselves. Many of the mortgage banks including countrywide, calling themselves financial leaders, gave variety of loans under fancy names, without any idea of knowing the outcome or how it could affect the banks as well as borrowers. As a result, many mortgage banks have gone down. Other banks blindly followed countrywide fell down. It is really sad that people or institution blindly follow another leader even if the leader goes in the wrong direction. Success is far beyond reach.

  • entrepreneur indiana

    Yes mc but you have to look at the history. This is a growing trend that one can see from a graph of compounding interest since 1913 when the fed was created. Reserve requirements have been adjusted to accomodate/facilitate it. Now we have entered a period of debt growth that is doubling each year and will move into exponential growth in only a few years. It’s a seriuos flaw inthe monetary system that is predicted. By waiting for it to become HUGE, we are setting up for a period of hyper-inflation next. What fun.

  • Jamesbrailer

    Ferguson lacks integrity at his core.