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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Richardson Promotion

No, I did not mistype - I really think Bill Richardson just got tapped for a major promotion. I don't understand why the view persists that he's been passed over for Secretary of State, and that given that as well as his impressive credentials, that he has somehow been demoted by being named as the nominee for Secretary of Commerce. In my humble view, nothing could be further from the truth.

So why is the Richardson appointment a promotion? Because he has one of the most important jobs in the Cabinet. Look at what he is expected to achieve (from the Commerce Department's website):

"The historic mission of the Department is "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce" of the United States. This has evolved, as a result of legislative and administrative additions, to encompass broadly the responsibility to foster, serve, and promote the Nation's economic development and technological advancement. The Department fulfills this mission by:

a. Participating with other Government agencies in the creation of national policy, through the President's Cabinet and its subdivisions.

b. Promoting and assisting international trade.

c. Strengthening the international economic position of the United States.

d. Promoting progressive domestic business policies and growth.

e. Improving comprehension and uses of the physical environment and its oceanic life.

f. Ensuring effective use and growth of the Nation's scientific and technical resources.

g. Acquiring, analyzing, and disseminating information regarding the Nation and the economy to help achieve increased social and economic benefit.

h. Assisting states, communities, and individuals with economic progress."

What's the reality?
  • The US has been in a recession for a year and faces the real possibility of depression. The world is in a global slump
  • For the ten months of this year, 1.2 million jobs have been lost. An unconfirmed estimated 250,000 additional were lost in November
  • Much global hostility towards the US does actually stem from the way other countries were "encouraged" to adopt globalization.
  • All the states are in dire need of budgetary support as a result of the economic and financial crisis.
  • One of the major industries in the US - the automobile industry - is on the brink of collapse and is seeking budgetary support from the Government
  • The Government has significant involvement in the private sector (the banks, for example) and I expect this will increase in the short run out of necessity.
This situation is dire for the US. The economy must recover - that is not optional. Global interdependence means that the rest of the world also needs the US to recover.

Why is Bill Richardson uniquely suited to this post?
  • He is a former congressman - a useful experience to persuade Congress to adopt groundbreaking legislation related to a green economy and green jobs
  • He will be a former Governor - a useful experience to bridge the understanding between the States and Federal Government to achieve progress where real cooperation is needed for policies that are efficient and produce results
  • He has held portfolio responsibility for Energy - a useful experience to find that required balance for sustainable development; to understand the complexities and nuances that must be overcome with respect to global political and commercial interests to advance and achieve progress on an affordable green agenda.
  • He has held responsibility as a UN Ambassador - a useful experience for that much needed diplomacy in trade negotiations which if effective can reduce tensions between the US and the rest of the world, improve the image of the US, and importantly evolve a more sustainable globalization model
  • His Latino background provides an innate understanding of some of the more challenging economy related governance aspects in US history (as it relates to immigration reform, for example); and will be - in my opinion - particularly useful in finding a new path for small business development which has historically been the source of job growth in the US
At this time in history where the US economy must recover but with employment (I once said that jobless growth is a hollow victory), must grow but only sustainably, and must lead without dominating, it is my considered view that the role of the Secretary of Commerce will take on a significance it has not before. How could it not if the Obama agenda calls for a fundamental change in domestic economic policy? Obama ran on a platform of a new America - and so "business as usual" will not do. (It wasn't anyway which is why we are in the global mess we are in).

Bill Richardson, in my view, has not been demoted. If he achieves a green agenda, win-win trade reform, and a sustainable growth path with sustainable jobs for a sustainable planet, Bill Richardson will be one of the most important people in this Administration, and the world.


Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly and feel confident that he will provide solid support for President-elect Obama's domestic policy.

Deika Morrison said...

"Several big environmental groups have issued statements praising Barack Obama's nomination of Bill Richardson today to serve as secretary of commerce. The pick, they said, will help spur green business."


Deika Morrison said...

Today's employment numbers for November - 533,000 jobs lost in November.

kapo said...

You may be right technically, but appearance is reality in terms of how we humans function. The issue is where the glory lies, so everyone knows who the SOS is but almost nobody knows the current Commerce Secretary. Additionally, Miss Rice is has been incredibly ineffective, partly based on Bush policies, but also based on her own inadequacies, for example in dealing with the Georgia crisis, which is a silent disaster for US interests in the Caucasus. A more collaborative Obama administration opens huge opportunities for an activist SOS to get her name in the history books, starting with the possibility of a settlemnt in Palestine. Nobody will remember Richardson.

Deika Morrison said...

Respectfully, I think this time is different.

Commerce was invisible - or appeared to - because everything seemed well. Economy was growing etc. America had almost unilateral power to impose what it liked on other countries in terms of trade terms. That has changed. Domestic and international business needs reform. International trade remains unsettled. And the world MUST get out of a economic slump. Richardson must deliver.

Hillary and her husband together could do their very best and not one iota of difference to world politics. Not because she isn't talented; but because the issues are just bigger than them and have historical foundations long before America was thought of. No one cares much about what Rice does these days.

In times of economic strength, Commerce can be invisible. In times of dire economic need and on the verge of a revolution - a green revolution - Commerce commands attention. In times of political strength, SOS commands attention. That has been reduced in the last 8 years. Plus, everyone wants to talk to Obama, not Clinton anyway.

kapo said...

Richardson may make a tremendous difference at Commerce, but it still does not have the status of the SOS. All you have to do is visit these government departments, and you can actually see the difference in terms of which has the higher percentage of yuppies. In any case I am pessimistic about the resolution of major global trade issues because everyone has too much to lose. In hard times, nobody has the political capacity to make concessions. Check back to see what were the economic conditions when there were big developments in global trade.
I also think Obama cannot afford to investe himself heavily in foreign affairs because the external expectations on him are too high. He needs a hatchet man to get US interests served - none better than Hillary.
I also believe most success comes not from the superiority of the winner but from the inferiority of the competition. The reality is that America will stay on top because its competition is really crappy at this point in time. China is a fragile glass lantern that is likely shatter socially as its economy tanks. Europe is the only real rival but Europe is not able to define itself, much less impose its will. The Americans are slyly trying to destroy what little unity exists by pushing Turkish membership and further expansion.
Even in its diminished capacity, America will play the decisive role in many key conflicts because nobody else can.

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Reasoning The Reasons by Deika Morrison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.