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Aspen High students sound off on the Fed

John Colson
Federal Reserve System Chairman Ben S. Bernanke talks to a group at Princeton University on Friday. Five Aspen High students will critique Bernanke and his policies as part of the Fed Challenge. (Mel Evans/AP)
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If you could tell the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank what to do to improve the national economy, what would you say?Five Aspen High School students will have their chance to influence federal economic policy on Wednesday, when they take part in a competition run by the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, known as the 2006 Fed Challenge.The five students – Alex Beinstein, Justin Faurer, Jake Lansburgh, Doug Steinhurst and James True – are all seniors in Dave Connaroe’s International Baccalaureate economics class, and have been studying up on monetary theory in preparation for the March 1 competition.Connaroe said the group will have specified time allotment in which to make a presentation to a three-judge panel, and that their topic is expected to be an examination of whether current Fed chair Ben Bernanke’s approach to national economic policies is the correct one.”I think the group is going to talk about Bernanke, and if he is doing the right thing by continuing Greenspan’s policies,” Connaroe surmised, referring to the policies of recently retired Fed chair Alan Greenspan.

Connaroe said the team has been concentrating on different sectors of the economy, such as housing and transportation, examining these areas as indicators of the wisdom of Greenspan’s policies and, by extension, Bernanke’s ideas to date.The students will use a PowerPoint program for the presentation, Connaroe said, and afterward the five will field questions on the principles and thought processes behind their theories.”I think they’ll be formidable down there,” he predicted.This is the first time Aspen has sent a team to this competition, and the first time it has taken place the Denver branch of the Fed.Connaroe said two of the teammates, Beinstein and Faurer, recently competed in an economic marketing competition and, through their ongoing television show on GrassRoots TV, “Meet the Press with Alex and Jake,” have had considerable experience with high-pressure situations. The rest, Connaroe said, will be learning as they go.

The Aspen team will join four other groups from Colorado high schools, and one from Nebraska.According to a statement from the Federal Reserve office in Kansas City, Mo., the competition “asks students to analyze the economy using economic indicators and make a recommendation on the stance of monetary policy, just as the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee does when it meets eight times each year.”Under the leadership of the new chairman,” the statement continues, “the FOMC’s decisions with respect to short-term interest rates can significantly impact the economy of the United States and, to some degree, the world.”The teams will receive scores on “their understanding of the Federal Reserve and monetary policy, research and analysis, teamwork, and presentation skills.”The top team from the Denver competition will enter into regional competitions on March 29 in Kansas City, and national competition in Washington, D.C., in late April.

Connaroe said the top team has the chance to win $7,000 per team member. In addition, he said, the school that sends the winning team will win $5,000, and the coach of the winning team will win $5,000.But, he said, “It’s really just for the experience of taking a position and defending it.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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