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"Too Big to Fail" author gives economic insight

By NICOLE BABAKNIA | March 14, 2013

Andrew Ross Sorkin, the author of the financial bestseller Too Big to Fail and the chief mergers and acquisitions reporter for The New York Times, spoke last night as second in this spring’s Foreign Affairs Symposium (FAS) line up titled “From the Front Line to the Bottom Line”. Members of the Baltimore community. Approximately 200 students and faculty were in attendance.

“He was very personable — I liked the fact that he is both a journalist and an expert in economic policy. Not your boring economist,” junior Natalie Boyse, one of FAS’s four Executive Directors, said after the event.

Sorkin began by explaining his goal of the conversation and how he hoped to give a brief description of both where we are in the economy today and where we are going to be in the future.

“We are back to where we were effectively five years ago. The problem is we have a huge disconnect with the stock market and what is going on in our economy. The good news is we’re coming off the low base. But, in some ways you can argue that we are still running in place. That is my worry,” Sorkin said.

Sorkin is well known for his leading opinion on Wall Street and corporate America. His book, Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System - and Themselves, was a national bestseller and describes the intense behind-the-scenes moments that submerged corporations and economies internationally during the 2007 financial crisis. Additionally, he established DealBook, a preeminent online financial news service published by The New York Times, in 2001.

“Many students still do not clearly understand the events that led up to and followed from the financial crisis of 2008. This will be an interesting way for them to learn about economic issues outside of the classroom,” junior Sarah Horton, who also serves as an executive director of FAS, said. “Sorkin definitely appeals to economics and writing majors, but I think that his talk will be informative regardless of your academic background.”

Sorkin also discussed today’s unemployment rate and how although it seems as though times are getting harder, America is at a better place than we were a few years ago.

“I recently spoke to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He told me that he hired 5,000 new employees this past year. I asked him where he hired them. He said to me all these other countries where he hired workers and he only hired 1,000 in the United States,” Sorkin said.

He stressed how, in spite of recent improvements in the fiscal situation, it is today’s generation that is going to be hit the hardest by the woes of the last decade. Additionally, he explained how the lack of intelligent leaders is not the cause of our economic crisis.

“You can have as many bad actors on the stage, but if there was no debt, the economic crisis wouldn’t have happened,” Sorkin said. “The question is can we get the money back here at a rate that is acceptable and politically viable? Can we get the money to be spent on jobs here?” Sorkin said.

Ultimately, he postulated, Wall Street will be at a better place in five years. He emphasized how although greed still exists, he believes the system is slowly changing.

“The biggest problem is short-termism,” he said. “We have become the ultimate ADD society. We are no longer doing things in the long-term.”

Sorkin explained how computers trade seventy percent of today’s volume number. Humans trade the other thirty percent.

“What is the average hold time for a stock today? 0.2 seconds,” he said.

After his speech, he opened the floor up for some questions and answers. Sorkin then discussed his opinion on the future of journalism.

“I am a New York Times baby. I started writing for them when I was only 18 years old. If I were to describe journalism today I would say it is at a peak. Look at Bloomberg. They have hired 1,500 financial journalists in the last five years,” Sorkin said.

He explained how his only worry in regards to journalism is that the Internet makes people more polarized.

“People want to hear what they want to hear and read what they want to read.” Sorkin said.

After Sorkin’s speech, many of the audience members purchased autographed copies of his book Too Big to Fail.

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