Person

Robert A. Johnson

Occupation:

Non-profit Executive

Location:

New York, New York

Robert A. Johnson is the executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), a left-of-center economic policy think tank founded by investor George Soros. Prior to joining INET, Johnson worked for Soros Fund Management and served on the United Nations Commission of Experts on International Monetary Reform.

Background

Before rising to prominence in finance and left-of-center economic policy, Robert A. Johnson was a staffer in the United States Senate, first serving as a senior economist with the Budget Committee under the leadership of then-Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), and later as chief economist with the Banking Committee under the leadership of then-Sen. William Proxmire (D-WI). [1]

After leaving government, Johnson went into finance, first as a managing director of the Bankers Trust Company, managing a global currency fund, and thereafter as a managing director at Soros Fund Management, a major family fund founded by left-progressive political-donor George Soros. There, Johnson managed a portfolio of global currencies, bonds, and equities, with an emphasis on emerging markets. [2]

After leaving Soros Fund Management, Johnson served on the United Nations Commission of Experts on International Monetary Reform under the chairmanship of Joseph Stiglitz, an American economist notable for holding views critical of laissez-faire international economic policy and for supporting Georgism, an economic school of thought that emphasizes land value taxes as a source of state revenue. [3] [4]

Afterwards, in 2009, Johnson became director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a left-wing economics think tank also associated with George Soros, founded in 2010, which espoused the view that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by excessive deregulation of the financial industry. Along with Johnson, the Institute also hired Stiglitz to serve as the co-chair of its commission on Global Economic Transformation. [5] [6] [7]

Additionally, Johnson is the director of economic policy for the Roosevelt Institute (also known as the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute), a left-leaning think tank that asserts that free-market capitalism is inherently unjust. Johnson also sits on the advisory boards of the Capital Institute, a left of center think tank promoting environmentalist austerity, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. [8] [9] [10]

Views

In an October 29, 2009 article for The Globalist, an international affairs magazine, “Why Derivatives Market Reform Means So Much,” Johnson argues for increasing regulations on the derivatives market, particularly reporting requirements, in order to avoid a potential financial crisis. [11]

In July 2015, Pope Francis made comments critical of global capitalism, characterizing it as “the dung of the devil” and a “subtle dictatorship.” An article in the New York Times noted that supposed former “free-market champions,” particularly George Soros, agreed with some of the Pope’s criticism. The article quoted Johnson in his capacity as the director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (which is funded by Soros), as saying, “the pope is singing to the music that’s already in the air” and “that’s a good thing,” while also alleging the illegitimacy of the system of global capitalism writ large. [12]

On October 28, 2016, the New York Times published an article, “Small Factories Emerge as a Weapon in the Fight Against Poverty,” discussing the relationship between smaller factories and upward economic mobility. The article cites Johnson as claiming that the closing of factories throughout the United States, which occurred concurrently with the rise of international market competition, has reduced the potential for movement into the middle class, particularly in urban areas. [13]

On January 30, 2017, the New Yorker published an article, “Doomsday Prep for the Super Rich,” describing how some wealthy individuals, particularly in Silicon Valley and New York, are preparing for the “crackup of civilization.” In the article, the author, Evan Osnos, describes meeting with Johnson and discussing the subject. During the interview, Johnson argued that doomsday prepping among the very wealthy is symptomatic of a deeper crisis of “neglected stewardship” of society as well as growing income inequality. [14]

In a March 14, 2018 post on INET’s website, Johnson discussed civil rights activist Martin Luther King’s famous speech, “The Other America,” arguing that it was prescient in describing the government’s creation of, in King’s words, “a kind of socialism for the rich and a rugged, hard individualism for the poor.” The article cited as evidence the government bailouts of major financial institutions during the 2008 financial crisis. [15]

In a related March 23, 2020 blog post, “Rule Number 1 for Government Bailouts of Companies: Make Sure Voters and Taxpayers Share in the Upside,” also on the INET website, coauthored with the institute’s research director, Thomas Ferguson, an emeritus professor of the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Johnson argues that government corporate bailouts during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ought to avoid the lopsided dynamic of the bailouts of the 2008 crisis by, among other things, stipulating that bailed out corporations accept more stringent reporting requirements regarding political donations and lobbying, and by compelling them to issue convertible bonds to the government. [16]

In a May 5, 2021 blog post, “Restoring Public Good—Now and for the Future,” on the website of the center-left Centre for International Governance Innovation (coauthored with that organization’s president, Rohinton P. Medhora) Johnson argues, amongst other things, that international financial organizations should offer debt relief to emerging countries in the global South in order to facilitate more efficient efforts at combatting the spread of COVID-19 and thereby sooner resolving the pandemic and its negative global economic effects. [17]

References

  1. “Rob Johnson.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/experts/rjohnson ^
  2. “Rob Johnson.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/experts/rjohnson ^
  3. “Rob Johnson.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/experts/rjohnson ^
  4. “Joseph E. Stiglitz.” The Library of Economics and Liberty. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Stiglitz.html ^
  5. “Rob Johnson.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/experts/rjohnson ^
  6. “Introduction – Institute for New Economic Thinking.” YouTube. December 1, 2010. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoqLu5CKx-o. ^
  7. “Joe Stiglitz.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/experts/jstiglitz ^
  8. Robert Johnson.” HuffPost. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.huffpost.com/author/thomas-ferguson-and-rob-johnson ^
  9. “Our Board.” Capital Institute. Accessed August 2, 2021. https://capitalinstitute.org/board/ ^
  10. “Rob Johnson.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. Accessed August 9, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/experts/rjohnson ^
  11. Johnson, Robert A. “Why Derivatives Market Reform Means So Much.” The Globalist. October 29, 2009. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.theglobalist.com/why-derivatives-market-reform-means-so-much/ ^
  12. Yardley, Jim; Applebaum, Binyamin. “In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism.” New York Times. July 11, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/world/americas/in-fiery-speeches-francis-excoriates-global-capitalism.html ^
  13. Schwartz, Nelson D. “Small Factories Emerge as a Weapon in the Fight Against Poverty.” The New York Times. October 28, 2016. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/30/business/small-factories-emerge-as-a-weapon-in-the-fight-against-poverty.html ^
  14. Osnos, Evan. “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich.” The New Yorker. January 22, 2017. Accessed August 2, 2021. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich ^
  15. Johnson, Robert. “Visions Beyond the Haunted House.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. March 14, 2018. Accessed August 6, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/visions-beyond-the-haunted-house ^
  16. Johnson, Robert; Ferguson, Thomas. “Rule Number 1 for Government Bailouts of Companies: Make Sure Voters and Taxpayers Share in the Upside.” Institute for New Economic Thinking. March 23, 2020. Accessed August 6, 2021. https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/rule-number-1-for-government-bailouts-of-companies-make-sure-voters-and-taxpayers-share-in-the-upside ^
  17. Johnson, Robert A; Medhora, Rohinton P. “Restoring Public Good — Now and for the Future.” Centre for International Governance and Innovation. May 5, 2021. Accessed August 5, 2021. https://www.cigionline.org/articles/restoring-public-good-now-and-future/ ^
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