University of Southern California

Forbes Forges Sunny View of U.S. Economy
December 28, 2008 • by LeRoy Hudson

There's plenty for critics and pessimists to seize on in the current bumpy state of the U.S. economy, but also plenty more reasons for optimism, said media mogul and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes at a recent USC Marshall School of Business event on campus.

"For all the doom and gloom," Forbes said to more than 300 people at Town & Gown, for most Americans, "it's been pretty good."

The evidence: 

  • Productivity growth is double the rates in the 1990s;
  • The average U.S. family has more savings than it did a decade ago;
  • The average U.S. family's median net worth is up 75 percent.

"Americans have more financial assets today than the rest of the world combined," said Forbes, who is president and CEO of Forbes Media, and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, one of the nation's largest business publications. "And the U.S. economy has created more jobs than Europe and Japan together."

Yet even with such positive signs of a strong economy, Forbes pointed to several areas of concern. Just as when he ran for president in 1996 and 2000, Forbes called for a flat tax, a revamped Social Security system and medical savings accounts for all Americans.

Current tax codes are "corrupting and corrosive" influences that make lawmakers, attorneys and the average citizen use it in way that are not always ethical, Forbes sad.

Health care is in a crisis because "no one controls it" and costs keep rising. And if something is not done quickly with Social Security, people in their 30s or younger will inherit only a bankrupt system.

Though he jokingly invoked one of his grandfather's favorite axioms: "You make more money selling advice than following it," Forbes still had a few tidbits for the students in the audience. Most importantly, find something you can be passionate about.

"Don't just go for the hot industries," Forbes said. "What's hot today can be very cold tomorrow."

The event was sponsored by the Strategic Financial Group and Northwestern Mutual, and organized by the USC Marshall Alumni Association to provide interactions between alumni, academics and business and community leaders.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.