From the 32nd Floor: Alan Greenspan deserves thank you notes from students

It's another one of those weeks on Wall Street. We've been seeing these for a while. We just sit in melancholy waiting for something - anything - positive to happen.

And the bad news is, this week isn't going to be what we've been waiting for.

The Federal Reserve will meet tomorrow, and it's expected that interest rates will not change. CNN is reporting it's likely nothing will happen until November.

Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, is the most powerful man in the world. Who would think a short, slender 76-year-old could elicit fear and attention from, well, just about anyone. With a doctorate of economics, Greenspan has headed the Reserve through the Reagan, Bush senior, and Clinton presidencies, and he is halfway through another Bush. Greenspan also worked for Nixon and Ford as an advisor and head of special projects. He's been working for the White House longer than I've been living.

What makes him so powerful? He influences the United States economy. He sets interest rates to push the economy in a certain direction. If the economy is slow, he lowers rates to try to push consumer and corporate spending. If spending is increasing too quickly, he raises rates to control inflation. Put simply: Mr. Greenspan orchestrates our lives, and that roughly translates to limitless power.

If he's been working in the White House under both democratic and republican presidents for more than 21 years, he must be doing something right.

As former democratic Rep. Frank Ikard said in an ABCNews.com report, "He is the kind of person who knows how many thousands of flat-headed bolts were used in a Chevrolet and what it would do to the national economy if you took out three of them."

We may be in a recession, but us poor college students should send Greenspan thank-you letters. School loans have been at very low rates. I'm spending less on my education this year than I did the past three years because the bank is collecting about three points less of interest.

However, low interest rates are a reflection of a weak job market, the job market I'm entering in May. Cutbacks in marketing and technology spending have left many spring 2002 graduates still looking for work. Graduate school is starting to sound really good.

But there is always hope in the future. In the late 1970s, the interest rates and inflation were both in double digits. When inflation fell, the Reserve cut rates, and we enjoyed one the nation's longest periods of economic growth.

Given the low rates Greenspan has set in the past eight months, I'm just waiting for Cisco Systems to ask me to be director of marketing.

Write to Liz at eabaker@bsu.edu


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