A Labor Economist Goes to Washington: Bring Your Questions for Betsey Stevenson

DESCRIPTIONBetsey Stevenson

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with economist Betsey Stevenson, a sometimes contributor and frequent topic of discussion. Betsey’s research focuses on a wide range of topics: happiness, marriage, divorce, and labor economics, among other things.

The Freakonomics blog will have to do without Betsey for the next year, however, as she’ll be serving as the Chief Economist of the Department of Labor (DOL). Officially, the DOL is charged with “foster[ing] and promot[ing] the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements.” In plain English, Betsey will be helping out with everything from unemployment insurance to job creation, job training and readiness, the minimum wage and retirement security. It’s hard to think of a more interesting time to be working on these issues, and it’s hard to imagine the DOL won’t benefit from Betsey’s expertise.

Betsey has agreed to answer your questions about her new position so fire away in the comments section below. As always, we’ll post her answers shortly.

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  1. DaveyNC says:

    Ms. Stevenson, what are the three most important things that can be done to make the U.S. a hospitable place for companies to do business again?

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  2. old guy says:

    what is your stance on augmenting social security to a basket that more resembles what senior citizens purchase?

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  3. frankenduf says:

    if the DOL is charged with “strengthening free collective bargaining”, then why has it failed so miserably?- that is, why has the union movement evaporated in the us, while it has not in Europe, and what are the political machinations that serve this end in Europe, which don’t exist here?

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  4. rob k says:

    #DaveyNC – I would think the US is and has always been a very hospitable place for companies to do business (relative to other countries that is).

    Ms. Stevenson, how may we increase incentives in offering employment opportunities among those who have been chronically discriminated against — namely the deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind, and older workers? And how may we protect existing retirement plans (defined benefit) by not having companies change plan benefits after it was being contributed to.

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  5. Michael W Baker says:

    The Bush tax cuts, we were told, would provide incentive to companies and the rich to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bush tax cuts had a net job production of 1.9 million in 8 years, when 19.2 million were needed to sustain a vibrant economy, and the top 1% now has 23.3% of the nations’ wealth. Given the fact that the tax cuts were not used to create job growth and stimulate the economy, should tax cuts be extended to the top 2%?

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  6. Greg says:

    How can the DOL create a job?

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  7. LB says:

    Millions of recent college graduates are having trouble entering the workforce, with many spending several years in low paying internships or taking jobs which do not require a college education to pay the bills and gain experience. How can the DOL incentivize companies to hire recent graduates and to transition interns into permanent positions?

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  8. David says:

    What do you make of the argument that the long-run, structural level of unemployment has increased because of the economic crisis? If so, what is the main cause(s)? Some explanations I’v heard: geographic shift in available jobs, extended unemployment benefits, and “regulatory uncertainty” on the part of businesses.

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