More than 2,500 alumni from around 55 countries gathered in Barcelona today for the Global Alumni Reunion. The 2-day conference, which combines academic and cultural activities, is being held at the Palau de Congressos under the title "Shifting Paradigms: Opportunities Lie in the Challenge".
The keynote speaker was Peter Orszag, former White House budget director in Barack Obama's administration, whose talk was entitled "Navigating the Economic Horizon - An Insider's Perspective". He spoke about the U.S. economy where he saw grounds for optimism, as there has been some growth, albeit sluggish. However, dealing with the government deficit was going to be hard and he believes it can only be done by increasing the revenue side. ""The Recovery Act is at its peak and we are about to hit a declining point in terms of macro-economic demand," he said.
On health care, he said it was fairly easy to extend coverage but much harder to reduce costs. He said that 25 percent of health care beneficiaries account for 80 percent of costs and that the system rewarded quantity rather than quality, thus encouraging doctors to recommend tests and other procedures. "A lot of health care is provided that doesn't actually improve health," he said.
"The broader problem is that Washington has become increasingly polarized," he said. "After the elections next month, the administration will have to choose whether to veer to the left or the center. But the center is a lonely place in America at the moment."