ATLANTA (AP) — The lack of enough skilled workers to build up U.S. infrastructure could be solved if the government eased restrictions on immigration, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said Thursday.
"We used to be a melting pot but now seem to have some trouble with that," Greenspan said. "I think that's sad."
Greenspan said he believes the issue could be solved with a "stroke of the pen," an apparent reference to action by Congress and the president.
He said the immigration issue is "restricting the supply of a skill or all sorts of skills."
He made the comments during a question-and-answer session at an event honoring Georgia business leaders.
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He dodged the two biggest questions of the day: What he thinks the economy will look like by next year's presidential election and does he think the stock market has been too exuberant, given corporate earnings that have been less than strong at some major companies.
"I can't say at this stage I know how it's going to come out, so I want to pass on a short-term forecast," Greenspan said.
On the stock market question, he also took a pass.
"We're dealing with extremely efficient markets, so to second-guess them is not easy," he said.
Greenspan, who worked as a consultant for more than 30 years before leading the Fed for 18 years, started the Washington-based consulting firm Greenspan Associates when he stepped down as Fed chairman in 2006.
Even in semiretirement, the 81-year-old has the power to rattle investors; in late February, his comment that the U.S. economy has a one-third chance of slipping into recession was one factor behind a brief global stock sell-off.
Some investors wish Greenspan would just stop talking, but other people keep paying to listen.
He was recently hired as a consultant by Pacific Investment Management, a unit of Allianz. Greenspan will participate in Pimco's quarterly economic forums and speak privately with the bond manager about Fed interest rate policy.
Greenspan's speech on Thursday was to a gathering over breakfast at the Georgia Aquarium. The Georgia 100 event, hosted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, honors the state's top 100 companies.