New Spin on an Ongoing Crisis

December 12, 2008 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

From where Kenneth Levin sits, there could actually be an upside to the current economic crisis.

“This is an amazing time to be at BMCC,” says Levin, who recently joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the Social Sciences department, where he teaches introductory courses in economics. “The whole field of economics is changing right before our eyes. And while it has my students on edge, it has also engaged them in a new way and gotten them to bring some good questions about the outside world into the classroom.”

Realigning the economy

Until recently, Levin says, “there has been a structural misalignment in the economy—an over-emphasis on the supply side while the demand side has ground to a halt.” The nation’s economic leaders have been trying for over year to find ways to stimulate buying and balancing out the supply and demand sides,” he adds, “and that’s what my students are trying to understand in the classroom.”

The economic crisis has struck hard at America’s middle class, “and that has worried my students, who are predominantly from the middle class,” Levin says. “They are particularly concerned about how the government will respond.” Levin’s own assessment of the current economic downturn has been shaped in part by his current teaching experience—and by the discussions in his classroom.

“We’ve been talking about the fact that the government needs to act more strongly and decisively than it has so far,” Levin says. “Our next president seems to share that view, and is talking about coming up with a much bigger plan than he was talking about even a few weeks ago. The reality is that the government needs to do things that the private markets can’t seem to do on their own right now. If Washington doesn’t act decisively, the situation won’t be corrected and the difficulty will continue.”

Introducing students to economics
Levin, who practiced for several years as a Certified Public Accountant, has taught at several colleges in the New York area—most recently at Queens College. His areas of expertise include micro- and, macroeconomics, political economy, and international economics.

“Regardless of what their major is, I think most students could gain a lot from taking introductory courses in economics,” Levin says. “There’s no need to focus on the quantitative and mathematical aspects of economics—those areas are primarily for economics majors. But to understand the world we live in, it’s extremely helpful to understand how goods and services and created and distributed.”

The current turmoil in the financial markets “is largely out of our hands,” Levin says. “But a basic understanding of economic principles can help students stay ahead of the curve, and know where tomorrow’s jobs will be.”