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Rubin: ‘Complexity, Uncertainty’ Shade Economic Issues

Robert Rubin, who served as treasury secretary during the Clinton administration and is currently the chairman of the board of directors at Citigroup, evaluates the state of the U.S. economy and the role of government intervention in recent economic troubles.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now, staying on the economy story, our interview with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin is a Democrat who served in the Clinton administration and now supports Senator Hillary Clinton. He’s chairman of the board of directors of Citigroup, one of the world’s largest financial institutions.

    Judy Woodruff talked with him earlier today in Washington.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Mr. Rubin, thank you very much for talking with us.

  • ROBERT RUBIN, Former U.S. Treasury Secretary:

    Very good to be with you, Judy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    How bad off is the U.S. economy?

  • ROBERT RUBIN:

    You know, I think it’s very hard to judge, Judy. I’ve been around these things for a long, long time. And I think this is an extraordinarily, even by past standards, extraordinarily uncertain and complex.

    But I think, in a very broad sense, there are three schools of thought. One of them is that there’s a serious risk of a long and extended and quite serious recession.

    A second view is that we’re highly likely to have a recession, but it’s likely to be brief, sort of a U-shaped recession.

    And a third view that — is I say the less-held view than the other two — is that we’re going to have a significant slowdown, but it will avoid recession.

    My own view is that it’s hard. I don’t think there’s a basis for making a probabilistic judgment amongst the three, so the way I think about it is to think of a one-third chance of each. But if you take that view, it takes you to two conclusions, at least in my view.

    Number one, as an investor, which I am, I would be weighing those risks in a very cautious kind of way. And, number two, I believe that policymakers should be highly proactive and seek and do everything they can that’s sensible, that’s sensible to reduce this risk to the economy.

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