The policy-making committee of the Federal Reserve Board meets again tomorrow, and the news won’t be encouraging. The one-percent decline in GDP in the first quarter disposed of the Fed’s forecast for 2.9 percent growth this year, and they have to lower it to the range of 2.0 percent to 2.5 percent. That’s just what the IMF did yesterday, forecasting as well that the United States won’t reach full employment again until 2017. So the Fed will leave interest rates at rock-bottom levels through at least next year. But Fed chair Janet Yellen will also continue to wind-down the quantitative easing program, because doing otherwise would signal big troubles ahead for the U.S. economy and scare the daylights out of the markets. In short, happy days are still out of reach, and there’s little the Fed can do about it.
We know it could be a lot worse, since it was much worse not very long ago. And it is much worse in other places. Consider Argentina: On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to let the Argentine government arbitrarily void its contracts with selected American lenders. So, now Argentina – with admittedly the world’s most irrepressibly, irresponsible, freely-elected government – may face another sovereign debt default by the end of the month. And according to the ratings agencies, the place next in line for a debt default is Puerto Rico. If it happens, the Obama administration will have to swallow hard and bail out our island Commonwealth – or risk economic chaos there and new problems for important banks here and in Puerto Rico.
Across the pond, Yellen’s counterpart at the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, continues to work overtime to stave off a European financial crisis. Two years ago, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy were all teetering towards sovereign debt crises, until Draghi stepped in and pledged that the ECB would purchase as many of their bonds as it took to support their debt markets. Two years later, those debts continue to rise, though not as fast as before. But their economies are still not productive enough to attract the foreign investors they need to support their large public debt burdens. And the large European banks which hold more of those bonds than anyone except the ECB are still unprepared to weather a serious crisis. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from official pronouncements: Wolfgang Munchau reported this week in the Financial Times that the “adverse scenario” designed by the ECB to stress-test those banks’ ability to weather a big shock is, in certain respects, more optimistic than the ECB’s own forecast.
Finally, while China blusters that its renminbi should be an exchangeable, global currency on par with the dollar, the flood of credit it unleashed to maintain high growth in recent years has left much of its banking system technically insolvent. And its “shadow banking system” – the network of arrangements that many Chinese municipalities and businesses use to borrow funds outside the regular banking system – is in equally precarious shape. The only things protecting China from its own financial crisis are strict credit controls and the fact that the renminbi is not an exchangeable currency, which insulate it from the judgments of global capital markets.
The fact is, financial crises have become as common as they were in the 19th century before the rise of central banking. This new cycle started in Latin America in 1985-1986, followed by Spain, Japan and Sweden in 1990-1991, moved on to Mexico in 1995 and East Asia in 1997-1998, and then to the United States in 2008-2009. The European Union has barely skirted its own crisis for the last three years, and the strains are intensifying in China. In ways that no one understands, the ultimate source of these cascading crises almost certainly lies in the globalization of capital markets. Until we figure out how and why this is happening, everyone’s prosperity will be hostage to upheavals that governments cannot control and can only barely manage.
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog
Please join NDN later this week for an online Webinar about the US-Mexican border, the Obama immigration and border enforcement record and the recent surge in migrants from Central America. We will be hosting two live Webinars, the first on Thursday at 3 PM and a second on Friday at 11 AM.
On the heels of Vice President Biden's trip to Guatemala, many are wondering what conditions caused a surge of people to show up at the U.S./Mexico border. NDN President Simon Rosenberg will offer his insight and provide a greater context to how our immigration system has changed in the Obama Era. Simon will walk through a newly constructed powerpoint presentation, which reviews recent data about what is happening on the US Mexican border today and review true signs of progress of late in managing this complex system. Simon will also review the recent surge at the border and discuss the best way to stem the tide. The briefing will be useful for anyone trying to learn more about the issue, whether they are writing in the media or anyone attempting to have a greater understanding of the policy options available.
Please note that it will take a few moments for the software to install before the event begins, so plan accordingly. Webinar can be used on either a Mac or PC. If you have any issues, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each Webinar will last for about an hour. The first 30 minutes will be devoted to Simon's powerpoint presentation, followed by 30 minutes of Q &A:
For Friday's 11 AM presentation, please rsvp here.
If you want to learn more about these issues before joining us later this week, please check out NDN's "backgrounder" that we put together with the latest news and resources on what's going on at the border.
For years NDN has maintained that keeping the Internet open and free should be one of the highest priorities of our government in the 21st century. Of late, it seems, maintaining the Internet as we know it today feels a bit more daunting, as stories of efforts to block, censor of limit the reach of the Internet in countries around the world pop up in our social media feeds and newspapers daily. Of all the challenges to an open and free Internet, there is perhaps one that may over time be the most difficult to manage – the ease and prevalence of cyber attacks by hostile governments and 21st century criminals on American companies, consumers, networks and governments.
To help bring us gain a better understanding of the nature of these emerging threats, we are pleased to invite you to lunch on June 24th with one of the nation’s leading experts on cyber threats to the US, Dr. Paul Stockton, former Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense and America’s Security and current managing director at Sonecon. Dr. Stockton, who until recently led the Pentagon’s program to maintain the continuity of Government, its operations and mission assurance during crises, will talk about how pervasive cyber attacks are, who or what’s behind them, and the challenges that Government and businesses face in recovering from cyber-attacks.
The event will take place on Tuesday, June 24th here at NDN, 729 15th St, NW 1st floor. Lunch will be served at noon, and I will be moderating a discussion with Paul that will begin at 12:15p. You can RSVP here. We hope you will join us for what will be a very interesting discussion that delves into the challenges that both the public and private sectors face on the Internet today.
Perhaps the central issue in the current immigration reform debate is whether the Obama Administration has effectively managed immigration and border enforcement. Many immigrant groups have attacked the President for being overly aggressive, many Republicans have argued that the Administration has been so lax in enforcing the laws that they cannot move ahead on a broader immigration bill. So what is it? Too much or too little enforcement? Is the system better today, or worse than when Obama came to office?
To help provide some insight into this consequential debate, next Friday here at NDN I will be making a presentation going through the data and what we know today. In this presentation we’ve incorporated lots of newly available data from DHS and many other sources. Our basic conclusion is that the President’s critics are wrong – that in fact the President has brought vast improvements to immigration and border enforcement, making these systems both far more effective and humane. Significant investments, better strategies and greater cooperation with Mexico have left America with a far better enforcement system today than when the President took office.
Join us next Friday, June 6th here at NDN (729 15th Street, NW. First Floor) for this presentation. Lunch will be served at noon, and I will begin at 12:15pm. The presentation will take about 30 minutes and there will plenty of time for questions, comments and discussion. You can reserve your spot here, and feel free to invite others who might interested.
We have an opening for my assistant here at NDN. See the job description below. All applications for the position will need to be in by this coming Wednesday, May 21st. Please send cover letter, resume, recommendations and anything else you would like to submit to Andres Chong-Qui at email@example.com
Job Description: At NDN & New Policy Institute, the Assistant to the President is responsible for managing their principal’s immediate priorities, including his schedule; getting out important e-mails via NGP-VAN; responsibilities with respect to paper processes; delegable operational and administrative duties and tasks (such as event managing, travel, scanning important documents, running errands); coordination with other assistants from NDN members’ offices and important stakeholders. With direction from the President, the assistant is also responsible for coordinating the President’s work towards his or her medium and longer-term objectives and goals, including directing and supporting special projects. Other duties include: answering communications, including telephone calls, emails, and written correspondence; clearing visitors in the building and meeting and escorting them while on the premises; event coordination; meeting arrangements, including manifests and agendas; support when President is on the road or in the office as needed; and other duties as assigned.
I write in support of Robert Holleyman to be the next Deputy United States Trade Representative. I have known Robert for several decades, and worked closely on many issues over the years. He is very smart, collegial, knowledgeable, experienced, forward-looking - a perfect fit for this position.
Through his years running a leading software advocacy organization, time as a federal clerk, Senate staffer and in private practice, Robert brings:
Deep understanding of the role of technology in expanding economic and individual opportunities, and empowering citizens.
Over two decades of private-sector experience working with some of the most innovative companies and entrepreneurs in America. A decade of experience working in government.
Extensive and direct on-the-ground experience working to open foreign markets and fight trade barriers impacting US technology workers internationally. This has helped make software one of the largest export industries in the US, with a positive balance of trade and growing job base.
Thoughtful, balanced perspective on the mix of policies needed to foster innovation and an open and democratic Internet both in America and globally.
Private sector leadership in helping define new "digital age" opportunities around cloud computing and cross-border digital trade. This is critical to ensure further expansion of the benefits of technology around the world and the ability of US-based companies to compete successfully in the world of emerging cloud architecture.
Deep appreciation for the important roles of Congress, the Administration and the public in developing trade policy that strengthens the American economy, raises standards of living and promotes global stability.
It has long been our belief that keeping the internet open and free is one of the most significant responsibilities of our government in the 21st century. Adding Robert Holleyman to the already strong team in place working on this project will truly give the United States an “A” team on one of the most important issues the United States is facing today.
Given that these issues are under intense discussion in the TPP and TTIP trade agreements being negotiated by USTR, and in many global forums like NETmundial and the ITA talks at this very moment, it is our hope that you act swiftly to confirm Mr. Holleyman. His expertise is needed now in shaping discussions that could determine the evolution of the global digital economy for decades to come.
The World Bank shook up a lot of people this week with its declaration that by a new accounting, China’s GDP will top America’s this year. But the meaning and significance of that accounting remain at best elusive. Last year, the World Bank reported that using prevailing exchange rates, China’s GDP in 2012 was barely half that of America ($8.2 trillion versus $16.2 trillion). The new report draws on a statistical adjustment called “purchasing power parity” or PPP, often used to compare GDP in two or more countries when exchange rates fluctuate widely. In analytic shorthand, PPP calculates GDP by looking at what it costs households in one country to feed, house, educate and otherwise take care of itself – including the costs of doing business and maintaining government –compared to households in another country.
Setting aside the fact that U.S.-China exchange rates have been pretty stable, here’s how PPP works. You start with a basket of personal and business goods and services in each country, taking account of habits, tastes and preferences. So, the Chinese basket will be different from its American counterpart because, for example, Americans eat potatoes and subscribe to premium cable stations while Chinese eat rice and go to outdoor cinemas. Since a serving of potatoes in America costs more than a serving of rice in China, China’s GDP is adjusted (upward) to take that into account. These comparisons also require adjustments for quality. Americans pay much more for health care and housing than Chinese – but the quality and quantity per-household of these services and goods as Americans consume them is much higher and larger than Chinese enjoy. So, World Bank statisticians have to not only observe prices and levels of consumption, but also come up with adjustment factors for differences in quality for each country. The truth is, nobody knows how to do that for countless goods and services, including the Bank’s PPP experts.
The United States is the baseline for PPP calculations. So if China’s basket of goods and services takes half as much income to buy there as the American basket does in the United States, after accounting for quality differences, China’s GDP is adjusted up by that increment. I should also mention that PPP analysis can produce a range of results based not only on all of the adjustments, but also on which of four distinct and accepted ways of calculating PPP the analyst uses. This week’s announcement of PPP-based GDP came after the World Bank applied a new weighting regimen to one of the four methods. What it means, then, depends on all of those assumptions and calculations, which makes any conclusions based on that accounting problematic, at best. As the Bank itself noted, “Because of the complexity of the process used to collect the data and calculate the PPPs, it is not possible to directly estimate their margins of error.
By any accounting, China’s GDP has been growing very rapidly for several decades. The reasons are pretty basic. They start with the world’s largest workforce producing Chinese goods and services. And thanks to the foreign direct investments of advanced technologies and business methods, much of it from America, Western multinationals have given China the means to make all those workers more productive. Yet, the lives led by China’s people remain a world away from the lives of Americans. Even using the World Bank’s PPP calculations, per-capita GDP in China is just $9,844, compared to $53,101 in the United States.
One more caveat: China’s PPP-adjusted GDP may be said to statistically rival America’s – whatever that means – only because U.S. growth has been unusually slow for more than a decade. If the American economy had continued to expand since 2001 at the rate it grew in the 1990s, our GDP would still be more than 20 percent bigger than China’s even using the World Bank’s new adjustments and accounting. For that, we have no one to blame but our policymakers and ourselves.
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog
Yesterday, a group of Republican Senators repeated one of the great canards of the Obama era – that our immigration and border enforcement system is less effective today than when Obama took office. By virtually every measure we have, this is simply not true. With far greater resources, better strategies and improved cooperation with Mexico, the Obama Administration has in fact made the border safer, the immigration system far better while also allowing for an enormous expansion of trade with Mexico (visit here for a deeper dive on these arguments and more).
Let’s review some of what we know:
Crime is Down on US Side of the Border - Crime is down along the US side of the border. The two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today.
Border Patrol Far More Effective - Four of the five high-traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexico border are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of 90% effectiveness rate. Many of the nine corridors have seen significant increases in their effectiveness rates in recent years.
Flow of Unauthorized Immigrants into US Has Plummeted – The increased effectiveness of the border patrol along the border, and the deterrent effect of more aggressive removals of those crossing the border has helped dramatically slow the flow of unauthorized migration from Mexico. This flow has fallen from its peak of 770,000 people in 2001 to zero today. Looking at it another way, under President Bush, the undocumented immigration population grew by 3m, or almost 400,000 a year. Under President Obama there has been no increase in the overall size of the undocumented population. The flow has essentially stopped.
The System Is Deporting Far More High Priority Unauthorized Immigrants - The system is removing far more people of consequence from the US than before. According to ICE data, 59% of those deported in 2013 had criminal records, up from 36% a few years ago. And fully 98% of those removed were either caught trying to illegally enter the country or were interior removals with criminal records. In 2013, the number of overall removals was at approximately the same level as the last year of the Bush Administration, and the average number of formal removals has been far higher under Obama than Bush. Prioritizing the removals of murderers and border-crossers over hard-working moms is just smart policy.
While Providing Opportunities for Young People To Contribute – In another smart improvement in immigration enforcement, the President has offered temporary relief from deportation and work permits for more than a million DREAM-eligible youth, allowing these young people to more fully contribute to American society.
Trade Across our Border With Mexico Has Almost Doubled - Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340b in 2009 to about $550b in 2013. Mexico is now America’s 3rd largest trading partner and 2nd largest export market. $1.3 billion worth of goods and 1m people now cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day. This trade supports millions of jobs on both sides of the border.
So what is the big idea these tough Senators propose to make the system better? Move resources to deporting non-criminal migrants in the interior of the country. The result of this in practical terms will be to weaken the highly effective border deterrence system established in recent years, and to cause a drop in the number of criminals we are deporting in the interior. In essence, the President’s critics want to re-establish the Bush era system which did not prioritize murderers over moms, and simply went after all unauthorized immigrants in the interior regardless of their criminal history. The outcome of this strategy will be in fact to weaken the enforcement system in the US, not strengthen it.
This is no idle debate. Last year the House GOP passed something known as the King Amendment which would achieve the same thing the Senate Republicans are advocating for – the roll back of the DHS’s successful new enforcement priorities, a vote that would among other things revoke the DACA program for DREAM eligible youth. The excuse coming from the House GOP today on why they cannot move forward on immigration reform is that the President’s policies have weakened our immigration and border enforcement system – when it is clear that this is not true, that the system is far better today and that their proposals will actually weaken the system not strengthen it. This argument, still alive and potent inside the House GOP is simply ridiculous, and is not a legitimate reason to hold up moving ahead on immigration reform. If they want to once again turn their back on the clear majority of Americans – and their Speaker – who want a better immigration system they simply are going to have to come up with a far better excuse.
With the topic of immigration very much in the news, and the release of more specific data from DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this year, NDN/NPI put together a panel discussion on the Obama Administration’s immigration and border enforcement record.
Marc Rosenblum, Deputy Director of the US Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, Edward Alden of the Council of Foreign Relations, and Tamar Jacoby, President and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA shared their latest findings and analyses of the current state of affairs. The discussion aimed to help unpack what this new DHS data means, allow experts to weigh in on the Obama Administration’s enforcement record, and take questions from the audience. We think it was a terrific discussion. Please find the C-SPAN and NDN video footage of the event below.
For more on NDN's work in this area of late, please see this recent, comprehensive backgrounder.
On Thursday, April 17th Simon recorded this six minute video offering his thoughts on the current debate over the Administration’s border and immigration enforcement record. His basic take: Obama has made the border safer, the immigration system better and more humane, while simultaneously expanding trade with Mexico. On a tough issue with even tougher politics, the current Administration has done a good job.
See here for a roundup of our recent analyses, and links to other helpful news articles, videos and think tank reports.
Note: At one point in the video, Simon says that both sides need to give the President more credit than he deserves. Of course, what he meant to say is that the President deserves more credit than all sides are currently giving him.