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Steve Forbes comes to Carnegie Mellon

Credit: Nicole Hamilton/Photo Staff Credit: Nicole Hamilton/Photo Staff Credit: Nicole Hamilton/Photo Staff Credit: Nicole Hamilton/Photo Staff

Last Friday, Steve Forbes, the chairman and CEO of Forbes Media, came to Carnegie Mellon to provide an analysis of the recent midterm elections. Forbes, who was a Republican presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, shared his perspective on the elections, the economy, and health care with the Carnegie Mellon community.

The speech and subsequent Q & A were moderated by Carnegie Mellon president Jared L. Cohon.

Forbes called the midterm elections more than a change of power. “Not only did the GOP take the House,” he said, “but [they] reduced the Democratic strength to levels not seen since the early 1930s.…It was a reaction, I think, to the overreach of the current administration. More than the overreach, I think we’re at a time when Americans are examining again, ‘What is the role of government in this country?’ ”
He cited overreach as the distinction between government and “big, obese government.” “The two pieces of legislation on health care and financial reform were disturbing — not just in terms of the size, but in the way the language was deliberately written,” Forbes said. “Vague language gives enormous latitude and power to regulators in Washington, which is one reason why this recovery has been the weakest — in American history — from a severe recession.”

In regards to health care, Forbes said that the American people want more health care, but the demand is not seen as an opportunity. “If people want more cars, Detroit would be very happy to supply them,” Forbes said. “Why is this demand for health care seen as a disaster instead of a growth opportunity?”

Forbes said that the U.S. should have health care systems for low-income people similar to the food programs in the U.S. “Food’s more basic than health. Yet if people have trouble getting food in this country, we don’t have the government taking over the farms.… people can get anything from food stamps to food banks to help out. Why can’t we do the same thing with health care?” He said that there were ways this could be provided at a state level and then applied at the national level. “Productivity, innovation, less cost, and safety nets. We did it with food and we can do it with health care. But the government can’t do it.”

After speaking, Forbes took questions on several topics, including cutting federal spending, the negative campaigning in the midterms, and the trade deficit between the U.S. and other countries.

Kiron Skinner, organizer of the event and director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for International Relations and Politics, said via e-mail that Forbes “presented his conservative perspective in a highly accessible manner. While not everyone agreed with him, many said his reasoning was coherent and clear.” She added, “These activities enhance the conversation at Carnegie Mellon about politics, culture, markets, and technology — all main components of globalization.”

Speaking after the event, Sanjeev Baidyaroy, a senior history major who describes himself as often more Democratic than not, said, “I think he has the right to brag at this point. It was what I’d expect of Steve Forbes. But I found his comments to be witty and often funny.”

“He’s a very bright and well-informed person with a lot of strong opinions, and I was very pleased that so many students and faculty and people from the community were here,” Cohon said of Forbes afterwards. “It’s just too bad we didn’t have more time for him.”