The president-elect will face big problems, threats

It’ll be a short honeymoon. The next U.S. president will face high expectations (which may be impossible to fulfill), a recessionary economy and huge budget deficits. And that’s just domestically. Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, gave a speech this week that lays out the broader threats. As The Washington Post reported:

The next U.S. president will govern in an era of increasing international instability, including a heightened risk of terrorist attacks in the near future, long-term prospects of regional conflicts and diminished U.S. dominance across the globe, the nation’s top intelligence officer said Thursday.

Competition for energy, water and food will drive conflicts between nations to a degree not seen in decades, and climate change and global economic upheaval will amplify the effects, [McConnell said].

“After the new president-elect’s excitement subsides after winning the election, it is going to be dampened somewhat when he begins to focus on the realities of the myriad of changes and challenges,” he said.

Of course, besides the predictable conflicts and threats, “there is always surprise,” McConnell said. (Futurists call ’em wild cards.)

Continue reading “The president-elect will face big problems, threats”

‘The Era of Angry Populism has only just begun’

Robert Reich — author, professor and former U.S. secretary of labor — describes the mood of the American populace tonight, shortly before the U.S. Senate vote on the so-called financial bailout bill. His conclusion: “angry populism is about to explode.”

This mood will last longer than one night or one week; it will carry over into the November elections and well into the first year of the next White House administration.

Excerpts from Reich’s blog post:

While more Americans are coming around to “supporting” the bailout bill, the vast majority still hate the idea of bailing out Wall Street. They’re for the bailout bill now only because they fear that a failure to pass it will have worse consequences — drying up credit at a time when Main Street is struggling. But make no mistake: America is mad as hell. They resent what they perceive as extortion by the Masters of the Universe.

Angry populism has always been a potent force in American politics. And now, with wages dropping, jobs insecure, fuel and food and health-insurance costs soaring, and millions of homes in jeopardy — and what’s perceived to be a massive taxpayer bailout of some of the richest people in the land — angry populism is about to explode.

The larger economic outlook is not encouraging. All signs point to the economy worsening, bailout or no bailout. Unemployment will continue to rise. Median earnings will continue to drop, adjusted for inflation. More Americans will lose their health insurance.

The Era of Angry Populism has only just begun.

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Related:
The resurgence of anti-business populism; more regulation ahead

Time for a national infrastructure bank?

Douglas Rediker and Heidi Crebo-Rediker at the New America Foundation have released a policy paper suggesting a novel way to fund improvements in America’s crumbling infrastructure. They recommend two financing initiatives (beyond direct government grants):

[W]hile we have enormous infrastructure financing needs, there are also enormous pools of capital available for investment. The trick is to bring the two together in a commercial, sustainable, and politically acceptable way.

First, we suggest the enactment of legislation and the development of regulations to facilitate the origination and issuance of public sector covered bonds in the United States, which will provide a market-based, efficient, and secure mechanism to attract capital for infrastructure investment.

Second, along the lines of a proposal by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) last year, we recommend that the federal government consider the creation of a new, government-owned and -capitalized infrastructure financing entity — a National Infrastructure Finance Enterprise — that would pool, package, and sell existing and future public infrastructure securities in the capital markets. The proposed entity would also seek to develop an in-house capability to originate infrastructure loans and would be able to fund itself through the international capital markets. We believe that the entity should be capitalized at a far higher level than proposed in the DeLauro bill. Further, its scope should extend beyond that of the National Infrastructure Bank as currently proposed by Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE).

The need for much greater investment in U.S. infrastructure should be obvious. But if you’re new to this issue, here’s the intro:

America’s basic infrastructure is outdated, worn, and in some cases, failing. Most experts agree that it is inadequate for meeting the demands of the 21st-century global economy. If we are to remain competitive, we must invest in capital assets like roads, ports, bridges, mass transit, water systems, and broadband infrastructure. Many other countries — both rich and poor — see investing in infrastructure as imperative for economic survival and success in an increasingly competitive economic environment. But the United States has lagged in infrastructure investment, in both relative and absolute terms. We are spending less than 2 percent of GDP on infrastructure, while China and India are spending 9 percent and 5 percent of GDP, respectively.

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Related: Rebuilding and Renewing America: Toward a 21st Century Infrastructure Investment Plan (Wilson Center event summary)

Update: (23 February 2009) NYTimes.com Op-Ed columnist Bob Herbert on the need for a U.S. infrastructure bank: http://idek.net/3RJ (via @michaelgoldberg)

The resurgence of anti-business populism; more regulation ahead

We’ve already seen the U.S. presidential candidates embrace populist, anti-corporate appeals. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, has taken whacks at Wall Street. John Edwards, a Democrat, lays out his “stop corporate abuses” manifesto here. There’s a reason they do this: It really resonates with the public, at a time of globalization, job insecurity, outsourcing, mass layoffs, a looming recession, corporate scandals, congressional earmarks for contractors, $100/barrel oil, election campaigns funded by corporate interests (need I go on?)….

And now comes a survey, from public-affairs polling firm Ipsos-Reid, showing that it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon but a global one. Important note: The firm polled 22,000 people in 22 countries — but they didn’t interview just any warm body. The respondents are what the firm calls the “Intelligaged,” people who are online, vote in elections, discuss politics, etc. (see methodology below).

The pollsters concluded that:

…a majority of the world’s most engaged citizens is letting it be known that large companies have too much influence on the decisions of their government and they want a more aggressive crackdown on the activities and influence of national and multinational corporations…

…public opinion among the most active, connected and engaged global citizens is putting global and national corporations at risk for potential government interventions and tighter regulatory incursions because its most elite citizens will back such moves.

Specifically, the Ipsos poll found that:

  • Three quarters (74%) of the “intelligaged” citizens agree that large companies have “too much influence on the decisions” of their government. This was especially true in Latin America (83%) and North America (81%).
  • A full majority (72%) of the “intelligaged” citizens believe that the government of their country “should be more aggressive in regulating the activities of national and multinational corporations.”

Continue reading “The resurgence of anti-business populism; more regulation ahead”

Top five political issues in the U.S., 2007

Top five political issues in the U.S. (November 2007)

Issues cited as either a first or second priority, by all polled adults (regardless of political party)

  1. Iraq (46%)
  2. Health care (34%)
  3. Jobs/economic growth (27%)
  4. Illegal immigration (24%)
  5. Terrorism (23%)

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Source: Wall Street Journal / NBC News telephone poll of 1,509 adults, conducted in early November (reported 19 November 2007). Note: The margin of error is +/- 2.5 percentage points, so the difference between Nos. 4 and 5 is negligible.

Related: Poll: Americans are gloomy about the future