Richard Vague cohosted and helped underwrite the Atlantic Economy Summit in Washington back on March 14. Ex-Fed chairman Paul Volcker generated rivers of video and roads of print for the event just by commenting on the news of the day - the Goldman Sachs resignation letter as an example of why we need his own bank-breakup Volcker Rule.
The conference united Volcker with Fed critics Peter Schiff and Alan Meltzer, Obama aides Laura D'Andrea Tyson and Gene Sperling, and other influential wonks. For Vague the conference's greatest value was in the "little gems" of revelations - over just how deep the US deficit is (really deep), the expense of Obama's Medicaid expansion (really ghigh), the extent of American's private indebtedness (really large), and how much economic growth could help wipe these problems out (some).
"We got a lot of feedback that 'you never see this in D.C.,'" Vague told me last week. "Our goal was very modest, to unite people from across the Spectrum. Not just neo-Keynsians, and not just all-Tea Party."
Last time Vague took on an issue -- the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, in the mid-2000s - he ended up helping finance extensive research and reporting by ex-military and State Department officials that prepared regular reports making the case for pulling troops out. Has Vague moved on to a similar role in approaching economic problems? "It's gonna be hard to resist doing this again," he told me.
Vague says he's workign with Atlantic editor Steve Clemons on "buliding a historical model of debt" to place current borrowing and its likely impact in context.
Meantime he's also making modest media investments, through his firm, Gabriel Investments, is backing Amanda Steinberg's Daily Worth site. "She publsihes from the Flatiron District, bu tshe lives here on teh Main Line," h esaid. Looking at site and advertising traffic from favorite sites like Yves Smith's nakedcapitalism.com, Vague has come to believe "free news content on the Internet can work," with the right focus.