At the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, Chrystia’s discussion of war, economics and America’s role in the world featured a who’s who of leading voices: Robert Hormats, the Undersecretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs; Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; and Liaquat Ahamed, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World. Here’s a transcript of some of the highlights of their conversation.
How the deficit debate affects U.S. diplomacy:
JOSEPH NYE: In congressional discussions we get the short-, the medium-, and long-term mixed up. Here we have a problem often estimated as a $2 trillion problem about getting the debt under control, or the deficit under control, related to the debt. And what did Congress do in April when they were trying to balance the budget? They cut $8 billion out of the State Department budget and thought that that was doing something about the deficit. That is absolute nonsense. It’s like a drop in the wind that’s gone immediately. But from the point of view of the State Department where you have a $50 billion budget, that’s a huge hit.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Did Bob take you out to supper last night to ask you to say that?
JOSEPH NYE: No, no, this is all on my own, and I’ve actually published this in Foreign Policy. But the point is it’s an illustration of the confusion of time horizons. We do have to do something about the question of the deficit, but there’s an enormous confusion about time horizons.
On America’s historically low taxes:
LIAQUAT AHAMED: I do think the one striking is how low the taxes are as a percentage to GDP.