Opinion

The Great Debate

President Obama’s three percent solution

Jonathan Hoganson– Jonathan R. Hoganson is the deputy executive director of the Technology CEO Council, a public policy advocacy group that includes the CEOs of Intel, HP, Dell, Applied Materials, EMC, Motorola, Micron Technology and IBM. He previously was the legislative director for Rep. Rahm Emanuel and policy director for the House Democratic Caucus. The views expressed are his own. –

A few years from now, when our economy has regained its stride, we may look back to a little-noticed announcement last Monday that spurred the resurgence. Amid swine-flu hysteria and First 100 Days hoopla, President Obama quietly announced a commitment to spending three percent of the U.S. GDP on science research and development.

This is a profoundly important step, but if we are to continue to lead the world, the United States must also develop a comprehensive policy to foster innovation. For too long, the United States has lived in a “next month” mindset when it came to our economy. This short-termitis has led to sub-prime lending, credit card debt and a general lack of long-term planning. And in no place has this been more evident than in the sciences.

For the past decade our spending on research and development has been anemic at best, and beginning in 2005, federal funding of academic research actually began to decline. This was happening at the same time our overseas competitors were increasing their commitment. For example, China has increased its R&D spending by an average of 17 percent each year in an effort to catch and surpass developed nations’ spending.

Currently, the United States ranks seventh among developed countries in R&D spending as a ratio of its GDP. Is that a recipe for continued economic and technology leadership?

President Obama’s first hundred days

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.  The views expressed are her own. —

In his first one hundred days, President Obama has shown himself to be one of the most radical U.S. presidents in history.  He is harming America’s defenses by publishing memos on interrogation of detainees and threatening to prosecute lawyers who drafted supportive memos.  He shakes hands with America’s enemies, such as Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and sends mixed signals to its friends, such as Colombia’s President Uribe.

And, in the name of combating a recession, he is destroying the fundamental institutions of America’s free-market economy.

First 100 days: Grading Obama’s foreign policy

Michael O'Hanlon– Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The views expressed are his own. –

It’s no great surprise in American politics these days, but already a great partisan debate has broken out about President Obama’s foreign policy effectiveness to date. For his enthusiasts, the United States has hit the “reset” button and is reclaiming its place as not only a strong country, but a respected leader among nations. For his detractors, Obama is making the world dangerous by apologizing for America’s alleged misdeeds of the past, naively talking with dictators, and cutting the defense budget.

And as usual, the truth is neither of these polar positions. But as a past critic of Obama, especially during his days of promising a rapid and unconditional exit from Iraq during the presidential campaign, I would nonetheless argue that he has done a good job overall, and that his supporters have the stronger case to date. Still, making too much of provisionally good decisions in the first 100 days verges on playing a silly game of Potomac Jeopardy that only the evening talk shows and political junkies really care about. The bottom line is that Obama is just getting started. But he is off to a more solid start than almost any of his recent predecessors.

First 100 Days: What not to do in public diplomacy

Kristin Lord– Kristin Lord is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the recent report, “Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century.” The views expressed are her own. –

As Senate confirmation hearings approach, America’s next public diplomacy leaders will get abundant advice about how to improve America’s standing in the world. The Obama administration’s nominees (an under secretary and at least two assistant secretaries in the State Department alone) would be wise to listen.

Yet, in truth, America’s new public diplomacy team can accomplish much by following that age old maxim: first, do no harm.  Seven key “don’ts” are worth bearing in mind.

First 100 days: A fix for the housing crisis

Elena Panaritis – Elena Panaritis is an institutional economist. She spearheaded property rights reform while working at the World Bank, and lectures at Insead, The Wharton School and Johns Hopkins University-SAIS. A social entrepreneur, she now heads the investment advisory firm Panel Group. Her recent book is “Prosperity Unbound: Building Property Markets with Trust”. The views expressed are her own. —

In his speech to Congress, President Obama spoke of how the proper response to the economic crisis is not just a matter of immediate fixes, but also an opportunity to make investments that will serve the nation’s long-term interests. The same idea should govern the housing recovery plan. Otherwise, we get nothing more than a crutch when we need a cure.homesales

As much as short-term help is needed to keep more people from foreclosure, there is a big opportunity to get to the end of the crisis by starting at the beginning of the problem. The conventional wisdom is that subprime mortgages represent the beginning. In fact, the beginning goes back much further. The current crisis stems from the absence of a system that provides stability to the value of properties in the United States.

First 100 Days: Obama’s foreign policy challenges

Willis Sparks– Willis Sparks is a Global Macro analyst at the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. The views expressed are his own. –

Few things in life amused my dad more than a good karate movie. I once asked what he found so funny about Bruce Lee’s jaw-dropping display of poise and power. “Nice of the bad guys to attack him one at a time,” he said. In the real world, threats don’t arrive single-file, like jets lining up for takeoff.

President Barack Obama’s toughest foreign-policy challenge will be in managing the sheer number of complex problems he’s inherited and their refusal to arrive in orderly fashion. In addition, the still-metastasizing global financial crisis will exacerbate several of these problems, by depriving a number of governments of the funding they need to maintain social stability and to meet internal and external threats to their security.

First 100 Days: The next steps in the Middle East

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell in the Oval Office of the White House.

President Barack Obama inherits a distinctly gloomy outlook for progress in settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is change really possible?

Reuters asked Oliver McTernan, the director a UK charity called Forward Thinking and two experts from the Brookings Institution in Washington — former Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk and Kenneth Pollack — what steps the Obama administration should take next in the Middle East.

First 100 days: Turn down the rhetoric on Russia

Peter SchechterPeter Schechter is an author and an international political and communications consultant. A founder of one of Washington’s strategic communications consulting firms, he has spent twenty years advising Presidents, writing advertising for political parties, ghost-writing columns for CEO’s, and counseling international organizations out of crises. “Pipeline” is his second novel. The views expressed are his own. –

After an eighteen year sabbatical, we fiction writers have recently put Russia back foursquare into its role as a novelist’s favorite fierce antagonist.  For decades, thrillers were dominated by the threatening Soviet imagery spun by John Le Carré, Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsythe.  Now, recent offerings like Daniel Silva’s “Moscow Rules”, Ted Bell’s “Tsar”, and my own “Pipeline” again reassign Russia its place of concern for political leaders, intelligence agencies and military planners.

That Russia provides good material is no surprise. The non-fiction Russia uses natural resources for coercion.  It militarily overwhelms a small neighbor. It crushes domestic dissension through physical or psychological intimidation. It suffers from near-obsessive mistrust of foreigners’ intentions.  Oligarchs and Kremlin bureaucrats are locked in a maze of corruption, mafia and violence.

First 100 Days: Do not marginalize small businesses

georgecloutier1– George A. Cloutier, a graduate of Harvard Business School, is the founder and CEO of American Management Services, one of the nation’s largest turnaround and management services firms specializing in small and mid-size companies. He is also the author of the upcoming book, “Profits aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing.” The views expressed are his own. –

Why are the Obama Administration, Congress, and the Senate marginalizing the nation’s largest industry in the new stimulus plan?

Small Business Inc. employs about 60 million people, accounts for 70 percent of new jobs each year, and clearly represents the backbone of almost every regional and local economy. For this vital industry, the administration has allocated less than 1 percent ($700 million earmarked vs. $1 trillion in proposals). The nation’s leaders continue the small business program of the Bush years: talk a lot and do practically nothing.

Obama and the Afghan narco-state

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

To understand why the war in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, is not going well for the United States and its NATO allies, take a look at two statistics.

One is Afghanistan’s ranking on an international index measuring corruption: 176 out of 180 countries. (Somalia is 180th). The other is Afghanistan’s position as the world’s Number 1 producer of illicit opium, the raw material for heroin.

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