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VOL. 126 | NO. 189 | Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Econ Club Has Speakers On ‘Cutting Edge’

By Andy Meek

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This fall’s slate of speakers coming to the city thanks to the Economic Club of Memphis includes a cyber-security expert, a prominent New York Times business columnist and a former government official who was an early supporter of “Reaganomics.”

In other words, they’re all heavy hitters in the areas of politics, business and the economy who fit in with the club’s mission of “Inviting the world. Informing Memphis.”

“What we try to do is bring in speakers that are, in a sense, cutting edge in some dimension,” said David Kemme, executive director of the club. “They might be provocative, might present an unusual point of view, but they’re real experts in their field.”

Kemme said this fall’s program is one of the club’s best.

First up is Bruce Bartlett, an economist and author who worked in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Bartlett’s event starts at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis.

In the 1980s, Bartlett worked in the Reagan administration and was a supporter of his tax and economic policies.

In recent years, Bartlett has been an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush and many of his decisions and actions. The title of his recent book – “Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy” – offers a clue to his stances.

So does the title of an Aug. 13 post on Bartlett’s blog, “Capital Gains and Games”: “Why the Reagan Tax Cut Worked in 1981 and Why it Wouldn’t Work Today.”

Another reason the timing of Bartlett’s appearance is interesting: It comes the day after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, one of the frontrunners for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is scheduled to be in Memphis for a fundraiser.

In August, Bartlett told CNN, “Rick Perry’s an idiot, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.”

“(Bartlett is) a nationally recognized writer, blogger and commentator,” Kemme said. “A moderate Republican and original part of the team that put together what’s called ‘Reaganomics.’ He’s also an outspoken critic of George W. Bush and tea partiers, which I think will be challenging with our audience.”

Meanwhile, Melissa Hathaway, president of Hathaway Global Strategies LLC, will speak to the club Oct. 27, also at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis.

She’s served as a strategic adviser to companies like Cisco Systems Inc., and from February 2009 to August 2009, she was acting senior director for cyberspace in the National Security Council in the administration of President Barack Obama.

She also worked on similar issues in the administration of George W. Bush.

Kemme said her appearance is timely because “hardly a day goes by without an article in the newspaper about cybersecurity, cyberwarfare and cybercrime.”

On Nov. 17, the club will host New York Times assistant business editor and columnist Gretchen Morgenson, who has covered world financial markets for the paper since joining it in 1998.

Her event is scheduled for Nov. 17 in the Tower Room at Clark Tower, 5100 Poplar Ave.

Talk about prescient: She was a winner in the 2007 Society of American Business Editors and Writers Best in Business Journalism Contest for one of her New York Times stories headlined “Crisis Looms in Mortgages.” She’s also written multiple articles that have brought the national scrutiny of the New York Times to bear on mortgage-related investment issues at Memphis-based Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc.

In December, the club will hold its 2012 Economic Outlook Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis. For that event, someone from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is usually the featured speaker.

It’s also election season, and down the road the club could play host to a presidential candidate, as it did for U.S. Sen. John McCain in 2007.

“We’re always open to that,” Kemme said.

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