Economics Department Hosts Spring 2018 Lecture Series


Contributed by Dr. Gabriel Martinez, Associate Professor of Business and Economics

The Economics Department of Ave Maria University is sponsoring a lecture series in the Spring of 2018. The speakers in this series are as varied as the topics, all of great current and lasting interest.

The first lecture in the series dealt with the effects of the Great Tax Reform of 2017.

On February 22, Naples attorney Kevin Carmichael and AMU professor Dr. Michael New spoke to a packed Lecture Hall about the recent Tax Reform Plan. Mr. Carmichael, a lawyer and a CPA with Wood, Buckel, and Carmichael, gave a thorough overview of the impact of the 2017 tax reform for individuals and corporations. Mr. Carmichael pointed out that the elimination of the personal exemption, even when combined with the expansion in the standard deduction, had to be compensated by an increase in the child tax credit in order to provide a next tax cut to (most) individuals. He also emphasized the complexity of the tax reform, a reflection of the complexity of the existing code and of the variety of interests that the reform intended to address.

Dr. Michael New focused on the political and electoral aspects of tax reform. Dr. New, Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University, pointed out that there has been decreased Democratic support for GOP tax cuts over the years, with seventy percent of Democrats supporting tax reform in 1986 and no Democrats supporting it in 2017. Dr. New also pointed out two items that did not happen: a flat tax and entitlement reform. Support for a “flat tax,” although high in principle, tends to run into roadblocks as some deductions are very popular. And while entitlement reform may be perceived as a necessity, no one is willing to pay the political price.

Former New York State Supreme Court Justice Visits AMU for the second installment of the Economics Department Lecture Series.

On March 15, Judge Laura Safer Espinoza spoke to a standing-room only crowd about her work with the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC). The FFSC enforces agreements between growers of tomatoes and other agricultural products, the corporations that buy the tomatoes, and the workers who harvest them. In reaction to horrifying violations of human dignity and basic human rights (many at Ave Maria’s doorstep in the town of Immokalee), the FFSC was formed in 2011 to oversee a unique initiative that consists of (a) supplementing workers’ misery wages with an extra “penny per pound” paid by the corporate buyers into a fund and (b) by a commitment on the part of the growers to abide by a code of conduct that rules out forced labor, child labor, and sexual assault and that improves workers’ health and working conditions.

Judge Safer Espinoza, a former New York State Supreme Court Justice, remarked that while the Florida farms had once been “ground zero for US slavery,” now they are considered to be a model for treatment of workers. The students were moved both by the dramatic change and by the imperative to get involved.

Lessons from 50 years of Social Experiments

On April 5, Dr. Walter Nicholson (Emeritus Professor of Economics at Amherst College and Visiting Professor at Ave Maria University) spoke on various social experiments carried out over the last 50 years and their impact on public policy. Economics is often criticized for not being an “experimental science,” a science in which theoretical propositions can be tested. In his lecture, Dr. Walter Nicholson evaluated how economists have addressed this complaint by conducting experiments “with the goal of testing out major policy proposals” over the last few decades.

Still another lecture remaining this semester!

The Economics department has organized one final talk in April. On Monday, April 16th, guest speaker Dr. Alejandro Cañadas of Mount St. Mary’s University will speak on “The Puzzle of Inequality – a Catholic Perspective.” The lecture will take place in Lecture Hall at 5:00pm. Come out to hear the final lecture in the Economics Department Lecture Series!