The secrets of spending $800 billion


Flinders recently hosted President Obama’s “recovery tsar”, Mr G Edward DeSeve, for a working lunch on campus with academic staff and postgraduates from American Studies, the Business School and the National Institute of Labour Studies.

“This was an intellectual stimulation package,” said Professor Don DeBats, Head of American Studies, who organised Mr DeSeve’s visit to Flinders.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have access to fascinating insights into American public life at the highest level, and this demonstrates the effectiveness of the networks established over the years through the American Studies Program.”

In Adelaide at the invitation of Carnegie Mellon University, Mr DeSeve recently completed his role as Special Adviser to President Obama for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act implementation.

His Flinders audience heard Mr DeSeve describe the strategy for spending US $800 billion – the United State’s enormous post-GFC stimulus package.

Mr DeSeve was responsible for managing the allocation and distribution of the stimulus package.

It may have been a job without precedent, but Mr DeSeve said he had been training for it all his life: “There wasn’t a sense of panic; it was ‘I know how to do this, and as long as I follow my own prescriptions – I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years – I’ll get it right’.”

Mr DeSeve held the top job in the Office of Management and Budget in the Clinton administration before becoming an executive in firms such as KPMG and Merril Lynch and more recently moving to academic posts, He compared his attitude to his daunting role to that of a high-level sports player rising to the occasion in a big game.

While the majority of the US package was dedicated to direct and indirect tax relief and employment funding for the state and local goverments, Mr DeSeve said roughly a third of the package funded projects that included medical science and capital works.

In contrast to Australia’s focus on schools, the major infrastructure investment target in the United States was transport infrastructure in the form of highways, mass transit and high-speed rail.

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