Friday, May 2, 2008

What I said at the London conference

Is summarized in blog post.

And I might have been the most upbeat person on the panel!

posted by Dan at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Why I'll be (relatively) mute this week

I'm in London for the latter half of this week attending a Global Leadership Forum conference entitled America and the World Beyond 2008: Future Challenges and Possibilities. The campaign panel was certainly not boring -- for me, the entertaining highlight was when Peter Wehner unironically compared John McCain to Pericles of Athens.

There's a blog devoted to the conference as well -- click there to see panel highlights.

I was asked to contribute a pre-conference entry -- here's the link. The key point:

As the presidential campaign has worn on, each candidate has managed to annoy, alienate, or anger other parts of the globe. Part of this is due to the odd dynamics of this particular campaign. Between the Democrats, Obama and Clinton need to highlight their differences even though they agree on 95% of their domestic platforms. This leaves foreign policy as the obvious battleground. Meanwhile, Senator McCain's perceived comparative advantage is his foreign policy resume -- although his grasp of foreign policy details is not as sharp as it should be. This combination guarantees future quote-worthy material.

A lot of these contretemps will subside once the Democrat's nominee is determined. Some of them will persist, however. The rising tide of protectionist sentiment will likely lead the Democrat to continue to bash trade deals. McCain's need to secure the GOP base will give him cause to talk tough on the Middle East. Neither gambit will play well abroad.

posted by Dan at 06:54 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Bitter academics, tenure, torture, and pie

These are all topics for conversation in my latest diavlog with Megan McArdle. Go check it out!

For a dissent on the pie-throwing question, click here. Apparently I'd understand it -- if only I had a soul.

posted by Dan at 06:50 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A real policy difference. Yippee!!

The New York Times' John Broder reports on a genuine, honest-to-goodness policy disagreement among the Democratic presidential candidates:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton lined up with Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, in endorsing a plan to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for the summer travel season. But Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rival, spoke out firmly against the proposal, saying it would save consumers little and do nothing to curtail oil consumption and imports.

While Mr. Obama’s view is shared by environmentalists and many independent energy analysts, his position allowed Mrs. Clinton to draw a contrast with her opponent in appealing to the hard-hit middle-class families and older Americans who have proven to be the bedrock of her support. She has accused Mr. Obama of being out of touch with ordinary Americans who are struggling to meet their mortgages and gas up their cars and trucks....

At a meeting with voters in North Carolina on Monday, Mr. Obama said lifting the gas tax for three months would save the average consumer no more than $30, a figure confirmed by Congressional analysts. Mr. Obama has previously dismissed Mr. McCain’s proposal as a “scheme.”

“Half a tank of gas,” Mr. Obama told his audience. “That’s his big solution.”

President Bush’s spokeswoman essentially sided with Mr. Obama in saying that tax holidays and new levies on oil companies would not address the long-term problems of dependence on foreign oil.

You have to love an issue that puts George W. Bush and Barack Obama on the same page. As an added bonus, in this case they happen to be right.

This will be an interesting test -- if I were Obama, I'd hit the thirty dollar line very, very hard. This would seem to be a classic example of "politics as usual" and why it won't really solve long-term problems of energy and the environment.

Of course,I'm a lousy politician, so the fact that I would recommend this course of action suggests that it's doomed to failure.

posted by Dan at 09:17 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

What did GDP ever do to deserve this?

One of the more invidious comparisons analysts like to make is to compare the size of something with a country's gross domestic product. An old warhorse of political economy/anti-corporate types, for example, is to say that the sales of multinational corporations exceeds many countries GDP. This is true but irrelevant -- GDP measures the value-added that an economy generates per year, so the proper and correct comparison is between a firm's profits and GDP. When using that metric, corporations suddenly don't look so big.

I bring this up because there have been a passel of press reports about this Global Indight study of sovereign wealth funds:

Sovereign Wealth Funds have grown a remarkable 24% annually, and now exceed some $3.5 trillion. If growth rates remain constant, they will surpass the entire current economic output of the United States by 2015, and Europe by 2016. Their importance already rivals that of hedge funds and private funds combined.
This statement is
a) Likely true;

b) Not a new fact -- these projections have been around for the past year or so;

c) An even more invidious comparison than the one comparing firm sales to GDP. In this case, Global Insight is comparing assets to revenue streams.

Sovereign wealth funds deserve some scrutiny, but this kind of headline-seeking comparison seems designed to do littledoesn't contribute much to the debate.

posted by Dan at 09:03 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)