TU Friends of Finance speaker Stephen Van Arsdell upbeat about U.S. economy
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Friday, February 22, 2013
2/22/13 at 7:00 AM
Stephen Van Arsdell is bullish about the nation's future and what can be accomplished. Where others see challenges, he sees opportunity.
Van Arsdell bases much of his optimism on the belief that the U.S. hasn't begun to tap its potential for innovation. And despite economic challenges, including a steep national debt and intolerably high jobless rate, he looks for the economy to become vibrant again as businesses innovate to meet people's needs.
On Thursday, Van Arsdell, senior partner of Deloitte & Touche LLP - the accounting, auditing, capital markets and risk advisory subsidiary of Deloitte LLP - spoke personally about topics he believes are essential to the country's well-being. His presentation was part of the University of Tulsa's Friends of Finance Executive Speaker series.
Van Arsdell noted that global and national economies go through ebbs and tides, and since 1973 the U.S. has experienced six recessions, including the Great Recession that took hold in 2008.
While the recovery has been sluggish, Van Arsdell pointed to some positive economic signs. Consumer confidence is up; the housing market is firming; capital investment is rising; mergers and acquisitions are happening again; and personal and corporate balance sheets are stronger today than they've been for many years, he said.
Competition should not be feared but is something that should be welcomed because it drives innovation, Van Arsdell said.
"We absolutely have to do the best we can to control our destiny," he said. "I believe we have to take positive action to best position ourselves for the future."
To that end, Van Arsdell talked about the need for the nation to get its fiscal house in order and look strongly at immigration and education.
The national debt has grown from $5.8 trillion in 2001 to $16 trillion in 2012, exceeding gross domestic product, he said.
"The federal government has run a deficit every year since 2001. This cannot continue," Van Arsdell said.
He stressed the need for lawmakers to take a bipartisan approach and be willing to compromise and rationally address "what I can only describe as a Byzantine personal and corporate tax system and do so in a way that promotes positive growth."
Van Arsdell added, "I actually believe that our leaders in Washington are starting to come to grips with the fact that the American people are not going to tolerate the continuous situation that we're in - of politics as usual and brinkmanship day after day. We cannot keep kicking this can down the road."
He urged Thursday's audience "to keep the pressure up" on members of Congress to solve the problem.
Van Arsdell also noted that to promote innovation, the nation needs to attract and retain the finest minds available, which means addressing certain aspects of the immigration and education systems.
"Since the beginning of this nation, we have been a nation of immigrants, and we have been a land of opportunity," he said. "Our culture is one that consistently encourages and rewards hard work and ambition, and we need to welcome to our country those who can contribute to our well-being."
Unfortunately, the immigration system has become a barrier to bringing those people here, said Van Arsdell, who noted that he wasn't speaking about undocumented immigrants.
"Our immigration policies are based on overall quota that, in fact, don't prioritize, to the extent I believe they should, the skills we need," he said.
Van Arsdell noted that 40 percent of students in U.S. master and doctorate programs who are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics aren't U.S. citizens. Many of them won't be able to stay in the country after they obtain their degrees, even though they have skills that drive innovation, he said.
Van Arsdell also talked about the need to focus on elementary schools, noting that students in many other countries are advancing at three times the rate of U.S. students.
"We need to understand how we can continue to raise the bar," he said. "I believe our children deserve no less. When we recognize that the odds of going to jail in a fair number of communities are greater than the odds of reading at the third-grade level, it's shocking."
Meredith Siegfried, CEO of Tulsa-based NORDAM, one of the world's largest independently owned aerospace companies, will be the series' featured speaker March 12.
Original Print Headline: Visiting speaker is upbeat on U.S. future
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466
Stephen Van Arsdell, senior partner of Deloitte & Touche, speaks Thursday at TU's Friends of Finance luncheon at the University of Tulsa TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World