Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

Pete Peterson: stimulate the economy now

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 22, 2010 19:02 UTC

Short-term stimulus OK
Pete Peterson supports a short-term fiscal stimulus only if it is paired with long-term deficit reduction and faults both political parties for their unwillingness to cut specific government programs.

Cut spending, raise taxes
Peterson discusses the unsustainable path of U.S. fiscal policy and calls for cuts in spending on entitlements, defense and tax subsidies for the rich and corporations.

Blackstone founder on the GOP
Peterson says Republicans have called for fiscal responsibility, but have actually contributed to deficits. If the U.S. economy is to improve, Peterson says the GOP and business leaders need to do more.

What’s BP’s social responsibility?

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 19, 2010 14:26 UTC

OIL-SPILL/

This piece first appeared in The Washington Post.

For weeks people on both sides of the Atlantic have been speculating over who would lose his job first because of the BP spill — Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, or Tony Hayward, the oil company’s chief executive. Given last week’s initial progress in capping the well, I won’t try to name a favorite in that race. But I would like to suggest a third, inanimate, culprit: the cult of corporate social responsibility.

As crude poured into the Gulf of Mexico and the world economy struggled to recover from the financial crisis, corporate social responsibility might seem a perverse target. Surely we need more corporate responsibility, not less. But many of the business disasters of the past 24 months have been facilitated by the mini-industry of corporate social responsibility — known as CSR by those in the trade — a fetish encouraged by the philanthropies that feed off it and funded by the corporate executives who have found that it serves their bottom line.

Consider BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign. Before the spill transformed that slogan into a punch line for late-night comedians, Madison Avenue had lauded BP’s effort to position itself as the greenest fossil fuel producer: “Beyond Petroleum” won two PRWeek “campaign of the year” awards and a gold “Effie” from the American Marketing Association. Ogilvy, the firm that invented the slogan, still boasts of “Beyond Petroleum” as a successful “case study” on its Web site.

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 16, 2010 15:13 UTC

Chrystia’s take on the financial regulation bill and Goldman Sachs’ settlement with the SEC, on the PBS NewsHour, Thursday, July 15, 2010.

Mid-term talk with Mario

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 14, 2010 22:01 UTC

America’s two-speed economy

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 7, 2010 02:15 UTC

A sunny July day in Aspen, Colorado, with Dvorak’s Symphony Number 8, courtesy of the Aspen Music Festival, lilting in the background, is a pretty good definition of the American dream.

Yet one of the most interesting threads running through the conversation Tuesday, the first full day of the Aspen Ideas Festival (underwritten in part by Thomson Reuters, where I work) is the fear that America’s days as the land of opportunity, particularly for the middle class, may be numbered.

The first warning came at 7:45 am – a typical start for the wonkish crowd assembled here – from Michael Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials. Splinter was full of Silicon Valley enthusiasm for his company and its prospects: “it very much is the frontier … this really is rocket science.”

Cheers to Elena Kagan, but where are the rest of the women?

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 2, 2010 15:25 UTC

women swimmersThis piece first appeared in the Washington Post.

Watching Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings this week, it is tempting to declare — as some have of late — that we have entered the age of women. Not just in politics but in school and in the broader economy women are doing well. Yet this female triumphalism overlooks an important exception: The areas where the real money and power reside are occupied almost exclusively by men.

Consider the industries occupying the commanding heights of capitalism: technology and finance. Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook were all founded by men and are led by male CEOs. All of the big Wall Street banks are run by men. Hedge funds and private equity firms — where the real action is — are a male preserve. Sebastian Mallaby’s fine new history of hedge funds zeroes in on 14 chief protagonists — all male. In 400 pages, he interviews only two female hedge fund executives. Mallaby didn’t speak to more women because there aren’t many to talk to. Of the top 10 highest-paid hedge fund managers in 2009, none were women.

The absence of women at the economic summit is particularly significant because those at the very top of the income distribution have reaped the lion’s share of the rewards in the past couple of decades. For all their success elsewhere, it is precisely this economic apex that women are failing to scale.

People didn’t drown the markets; a bad system did

Chrystia Freeland
Jun 29, 2010 21:15 UTC

This piece first appeared in the July/August edition of Foreign Policy. The following opinions expressed are the author’s own.

The temptation is to see the 2008 Wall Street implosion that helped trigger the broader economic crisis as the consequence of individual idiocy and avarice. That thesis is emotionally appealing — nowadays everyone loves to hate and, better still, feel superior to wealthy Masters of the Universe. It is intellectually appealing, too. Blaming the crisis on human error is a lot easier than trying to work out the systemic problems it laid bare.

But just because something is easy doesn’t make it accurate. Call it the Michael Lewis fallacy. His book The Big Short deserves its place on the best-seller lists; it offers the best insight yet into the lunacy of subprime borrowing and the intricate world of structured financial products used to bet on those dreadful home loans. But the fabulous human stories of greed and stupidity Lewis tells are a seductively dangerous basis for understanding the global economic meltdown.

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