One Way to Frame the Debate: Eliot Spitzer at the Center

eliot spitzer talk ccny colin powell center

Watching Eliot Spitzer dispatch complex policy questions during his March 27 talk at the Colin Powell Center (part of the new Conversations in Leadership series), I had the feeling that I was watching a professional ballplayer at practice nonchalantly knocking balls deep into the outfield. Whether you agree with him or not, the former governor’s highly candid views on issues such as Occupy Wall Street, Citizens United (a decision he supported), or the fate of health care reform, suggests why Current TV recently tapped him to host a new program. Here are a few of excerpts.

Occupy Wall Street: “A genuinely organic, emotionally driven, visceral scream of anger.” “You couldn’t have written this script—that a bunch of ragtag people changed the debate completely from how to cut the deficit to what the long-term equity issues are.”

• Wall Street: “The notion that industry can regulate itself; it just doesn’t happen—any more than you would let the New Orleans Saints call their own holding penalties. Self-regulation doesn’t work on the football field, and it doesn’t work in the financial sector.”

• Student Loan Debt:  “I’m going to give you one crazy idea, proposed by Milton Friedman and James Tobin. Instead of paying up front, you agree to pay a fixed percentage of your income, say 8 percent, for the next 20 or 25 years. This would free people up to take whatever job they want.”

• Citizens United: “Citizens United was decided the right way. This doesn’t mean money in politics isn’t corrupting in that it distorts decision making, but we need to come up with a better way of responding than to take away rights.”

• Supreme Court’s Health-Care Reform Case: Justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia are “intellectually free spirits who are happy to throw metaphorical hand grenades at existing constitutional doctrine.” However, there is a “10 to 1” chance that the Court will decide the case according to accepted jurisprudence and decide that the law falls squarely within the power of Congress.

—Maura Christopher

Maura Christopher is director of publications at the Center. Read more about her and our other contributors here.

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