Summers Bests Reich In “Redistribute The Wealth” Debate

In the new debate from nonpartisan debate series Intelligence Squared U.S., the debut of their Bloomberg TV show “That’s Debatable,” former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and former Greece finance minister Yanis Varoufakis take on former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Allison Schrager, debating the motion “It’s Time to Redistribute the Wealth.” Reich and Varoufakis say yes, Summers and Schrager say no.

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The live audience voted to determine the winner after hearing arguments on both sides. Though most viewers began in support of the motion, the side arguing against it - Summers and Schrager - pulled out the win by convincing more people to join their side over the course of the debate.

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Redistribute The Wealth Debate

Watch the entire debate here:

See below from a sample exchange about money in politics, and let me know if you would like to complete transcript:

Allison Schrager:

I'm not going to deny that the wealthy use their money to gain power. But a lot of that is happening at the corporate level. And we're talking about individual wealth, not corporate wealth... And I think it's really hard to say that all wealthy use their money for bad. I mean, certainly, some use it for political reasons we don't agree with, but that's a different issue. If we want to address this problem, we should address it directly. As Larry's pointed out, there's ways we can address the problems with campaigns giving all this political influence. We don't have to redistribute wealth to do it. Let's just solve the problem directly.

Yanis Varoufakis:

I'm far more concerned about corporate wealth, the accumulation of gargantuan power in the hands of very few corporations that distort markets, push real investment down, leading to what Larry Summers has described quite aptly as secular stagnation. We're not going to get out of this through tweaking income tax. We need to have a shift in the distribution of ownership of wealth of shares have control over corporations. We need to break up monopolies. This is all about redistributing power, and wealth.

Larry Summers:

I'm not sure exactly what Yanis has in mind. He's written that we should end capitalism itself and that there shouldn't be any market where shares and companies could be traded. I think that's a strategy that will lead to massive declines in everybody's income. And that that's hardly the way to benefit the middle class. We should pursue a set of policies that would reduce the influence of money in politics. It's mostly corporations that do damage.

Robert Reich:

I want to suggest as gently as I can, that my very, very esteemed opponents are putting on the table a bunch of red herrings. In fact, probably the best way of generating revenue, not just in terms of protecting democracy, but also generating revenue for all the other things we need to do, would be higher levies on capital gains, broadening the state tax base, closing loopholes and shelters, disproportional used by the wealthy. I could go through a long list. The point is that all of these require that you accept the notion that now is the time to redistribute wealth.