Michael Ettlinger, a Washington, D.C.-based economist, will be speaking tonight at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service to give people a clearer view of how Washington policy-making could shape national and state economies in the coming years.
Ettlinger's talk, "A thousand cuts: The economy, deficits and what's coming for states and working families," will address the incoming Congress' potential to scale back federal discretionary spending and reduce entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare.
He has been invited to speak by the Maine Center for Economic Policy as part of its Shepard Lee Lecture series. Ettlinger is vice president for economic policy at the nonpartisan group, Center for American Progress, and previously worked for the Economic Policy Institute, both located in Washington, D.C.
In his talk, Ettlinger says he will focus on the different views surrounding the economy's prognosis, as well as the short- and long-term prospects for deficit reduction.
Over the next two years, he anticipates we'll hear plenty of noise about short-term deficit reduction, but that the focus will shift toward long-term solutions, with this issue likely playing a big role in the 2012 elections. In the meantime, Congress could lay down some frameworks to begin grappling with the deficit, such as setting targets for reduction or defining procedural agreements, he says.
More pointedly, Ettlinger will also speak to what states might see in the future.
"It seems like in Congress these days, there's just not a lot of love for states," Ettlinger told Mainebiz in a brief phone interview. "The conversation is going in directions that make it seem like states will get less budgetary help from the federal government rather than more."
In the next few years, if states do not receive as much aid from the federal government, they will have to decide what kind of states they want to be, what their values are and what actions to take, Ettlinger says.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see states, even conservative states, doing less tax cutting and more tax increases," he predicts.
The free lecture begins at 5:30 p.m., following a 30-minute reception, in the Lee Community Room in the university's Wishcamper Center. A panel discussion will follow with Charles Colgan, chair of the community planning and development program at the Muskie School; Susan Feiner, a USM professor of economics and Paul Cullinan, a Social Security consultant.
Attendees should register in advance. See the link below, in "Out and about."