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Renowned Economist Dr. Greg Mankiw ’76 Speaks to Students
Greg Waxberg

Would you expect someone else to pay your bill at a restaurant or anywhere else?

No, but the federal government seems to work that way when dealing with its own bills.

“It’s a problem that your generation is going to have to solve,” Dr. Greg Mankiw ’76 told Upper School students during his April 5 presentation about government debt—debt that he said is being left to future generations to figure out.

A renowned economist, educator, and writer, as well as a Pingry trustee since 2018, Dr. Mankiw is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University, the previous Chair of their Economics Department, and the author of several textbooks about economics. In addition to his teaching and writing, he has been a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and an adviser to the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston and New York. From 1982–1983, he served as a staff member on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan; from 2003–2005, he served as Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush.

Why does government debt exist and continue to increase? Dr. Mankiw explained to the audience that, while the government gets money through taxes and borrowing, spending—debt—goes up during major events such as wars and economic crises. Add in the expansion of programs that promise benefits to older Americans (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), and spending outpaces income.

“What will make this stop?” Dr. Mankiw posed. “At some point, investors will say ‘that’s enough debt.’” He shared what he sees as five possible ways for the government to find its way out of debt: grow very fast, default on the money it borrowed, print money, cut spending, or raise taxes on the middle class. Whatever the solution ends up being, he said, it will require a lot of money.

His remarks represented one-third of his visit to Pingry. Dr. Mankiw also met with AP Government students and participated in a panel discussion with AP Economy students. In both cases, he answered the question of why economics is useful for students to learn.

“It’s a great platform for many careers and tremendously useful to study—everybody should take it. Whatever you’re going to do, I encourage you to take one course in economics. It’s the foundation for being a good citizen and an intelligent voter.”

Contact: Greg Waxberg ’96, Communications Writer, Editor of The Pingry Review