- EphBlog - http://ephblog.com -

Susan Schwab ’76 Pushes Hard for Free Trade with Colombia

 

United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab ’76 is pushing hard for Congress to ratify the free trade agreement with Colombia and warning economic illiterates about the dangers of gutting NAFTA by “renegotiating it” or imperialistically and unilaterally demanding that other countries adopt our labor, wage, and environmental standards.Read the excerpts from the U.S. News & World Report interview for more detail.

Facebooktwitter
Comments Disabled (Open | Close)

Comments Disabled To "Susan Schwab ’76 Pushes Hard for Free Trade with Colombia"

#1 Comment By Rory On March 27, 2008 @ 10:51 am

good to see this post came without any unnecessarily derogatory editorializing…lol.

#2 Comment By Ronit On March 27, 2008 @ 11:40 am

Honestly, Lowell, I agree with you completely on the need for free trade, and even I think this post makes you sound like a jerk. Could you try any harder to alienate everybody who disagrees?

#3 Comment By JG On March 27, 2008 @ 11:55 am

Wow, I hope she is more tactful lobbying Congress than you are with this post.

Calling people stupid is the absolute BEST way to convince them you’re right. Really.

#4 Comment By Loweeel On March 27, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

1) Rory, all editorializing was necessary.

2) Ronit, yes, I could try a hell of a lot harder, but I was pressed for time.

3) JG, please point out where I used the word “stupid” or of its synonyms. (Hint — it didn’t occur). If anything, “economic illiteracy” implies ignorance, not stupidity.

#5 Comment By JG On March 27, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

Apologies, allow me to revise. Labeling anyone who disagrees with you ignorant is an excellent way of convincing them to agree with you. Am I right in drawing the inference of an insult?

Unless, of course, Susan Schwab only lobbies those members of Congress who haven’t ever been informed of the basics of economics.

#6 Comment By Loweeel On March 27, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

Exaggeration for rhetorical purposes? sure. Insult? Not my intent.

The members of congress who are more familiar with economics are much less likely to vote against the CFTA; why would she spend her very limited time doing so?

#7 Comment By ronit On March 27, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

For anyone keeping score, so far I think we have an ad hominem, begging the question, poisoning the well, and a straw man.

#8 Comment By an eph On March 27, 2008 @ 3:38 pm

Well, it seems to me that the main problem here is that most of the people who are making decision in the government are trained as lawyers. For example, what percentage of the people the members of the congress are lawyers? Did anyone notice how virtually all the presidential contenders from the Democratic party went to law school?

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but do these guys even know what they are talking about? If the basic econ were taught alongside math and English in the high schools that would probably add a percent or two to the GDP growth in the long run. Hopefully, we would be spared of the most blatant populism.

#9 Comment By rory On March 27, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

an eph-

or, perhaps economics do not/should not rule all decision-making. If economists ruled the world, it wouldn’t necessarily be any better (I can see many arguments as to why it would be worse). Besides, blatant populism is not the only reason to oppose an FTA with Columbia: the treatment of afro-columbian citizens, for example, is a good moral reason not to open up free trade, regardless of the marginal cost to our economy.

It seems like the main problem here is that free trade hasn’t shown enough propensity to spark human rights improvement and hasn’t bolstered the economic status of the american working and middle class like it was heralded to do. Oh, and many of the proponents of free trade deny any legitimacy to the opposition to their stance, making it an all the more compelling opposition to some.

Also, whenever someone feels the need to write or say “not that there is anything wrong with X”, they’re probably saying they find something wrong with X.

Finally, Lowell, if you don’t see how calling someone an “economic illiterate” not only exaggerates but also insults, I’m honestly shocked.

#10 Comment By ronit On March 27, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

an eph: virtually all the presidential contenders from the Republican party also went to law school. And I’m certain that law school graduates like Obama, Clinton, or Romney have studied economics much more seriously than Senator Maverick. If you’d actually listened to Obama’s speech about economic issues today, you’d hear a pretty nuanced and thoughtful understanding of these issues. You may disagree with him, but that is altogether different from implying that he is stupid because he went to Harvard Law School.

Also, I was an Econ major, and basic econ (Econ 101-level stuff) is crap. It’s ridiculously over-simplified as a picture of the world. Once you get to higher level econ courses that actually deal with econometric tests and models, you start to see that the simple tenets of Econ 101 don’t necessarily hold in the real world. The evidence for “basic economics” is much more murky than freshmen realize.

Just to be clear, I believe strongly that free trade is a net benefit most of the time, and would disagree vehemently with most opponents of free trade agreements. But my comments here are about tone, not substance. If the posts by Lowell and ‘an eph’ are any indication, there is a strong correlation between learning a little bit of economics and sounding like a douchebag when you try to discuss economic issues.

#11 Comment By Ben Fleming On March 27, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

Speaking of not knowing what you’re talking about, I think the next unilateral “Free Trade Agreement” will be the first.

#12 Comment By an eph On March 27, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

Ok, maybe I should have been clearer: the general population should be more educated on the economic issues better (say, at Econ 101 level) so that would be able to recognize populist b/s of the politicians who may know econ quite well themselves, but find it rational to resort to populism.

Of course we should expect more of our politicians than basic econ knowledge. So you might say that politicians have knowledgeable advisers. For example, Obama has Goolsbee from the UChicago GSB who is a very competent guy. But the problem is that if the president does not have a solid grasp of these issues, (s)he might get disproportionately influenced by his (her) advisers. In other words, if Obama becomes president, people will have voted for him, not Goolsbee.

I actually believe Obama is the most knowledgeable to the top contenders right not, especially after Mccain’s quote from two months ago: “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” he says. “I’ve got Greenspan’s book.” (quote from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/opinion/14krugman.html)
I don’t know about you, but this makes me very scared.

BTW, have you noticed that the chairman of the NY fed is this guy:

http://www.newyorkfed.org/aboutthefed/orgchart/geithner.html

In other words, the subprime meltdown and the Bear crisis is being handled by a guy with a BA in Asian studies and a MA in international relation and what appears to be a limited industry experience in derivatives. Shouldn’t that make us worried? It took me 2 years of graduate coursework to get an intuition as to what the hell the risk-neutral pricing is, and I am a pretty technical guy. Call me nuts, but I think that the vastly complicated issue of the counterparty risk in the CDS market should not be handled by a guy who probably does not know what the Brownian motion is.

Rory: A right to trade freely is a basic human rights.

#13 Comment By an eph On March 27, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

errata: should be:
“I actually believe Obama is the most knowledgeable to the top contenders right NOW”

and not

“I actually believe Obama is the most knowledgeable to the top contenders right not”

#14 Comment By ronit On March 27, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

Personally, I think Geithner is tremendously smart, and I’d be happy to see him as the next Treasury Secretary.

If having a finance background and years of experience led to a better understanding of market risks, we wouldn’t be seeing the turmoil we are seeing now with all of the banks. It seems that the “pros” often have no idea what they’re doing.

#15 Comment By frank uible On March 27, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

What does he sincerely and realistically intend to do about taxes, government spending and economic growth, all over the long term?

#16 Comment By FROSH mom On March 27, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

Frank,

Considering the way George W. has handled “government spending and economic growth”, any, and all candidates have a heck of a job ahead of them.

McCain, Clinton, and Obama all gave speeches this week on their respective economic plans. I believe you can get all three on UTube, and there will be press on Obama’s in tomorrow’s papers.

#17 Comment By an eph On March 27, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

Quote:
Personally, I think Geithner is tremendously smart, and I’d be happy to see him as the next Treasury Secretary.

I’m sure he’s very smart. However, would you let him design a bridge? No, you would not – you would get a civil engineer for that, regardless of what Geithner’s IQ is.

Quote:
If having a finance background and years of experience led to a better understanding of market risks, we wouldn’t be seeing the turmoil we are seeing now with all of the banks. It seems that the “pros” often have no idea what they’re doing.

So, who are the “pros” who got us into this mess? The problem we have is that the CDS desks are manned by the MBA-types who are using Bloomberg calculators which are programmed by the physicists and mathematician. For them, these calculators are a “black box:” you plug some numbers in, you get some numbers out, and than you trade by these numbers. This thing was a disaster waiting to happen. These guys have no idea how badly these models preformed, or what the margin of error is – they just took the numbers they spit out for granted.
Academic finance has been screaming this for years. Look at this FT article from 2004 by a top guy in the field, especially the last sentence: http://search.ft.com/nonFtArticle?id=040416000799
Now that the shit is finally hitting the fan, the worst we can do is let the dilettantes clean up the mess.

#18 Comment By ronit On March 27, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

an eph – you hire a civil engineer to design a bridge because it is self-evident that there is a specific skillset required to build a bridge, and that civil engineers have these skills.

There is almost no evidence that “academic economists” can either teach or exercise the skills necessary to, for instance, understand and control market risks. If I had a penny for every hedge fund or bank that blew up in spite of following the latest Nobel-approved academic theories…

In fact, I am hard-pressed to find a greater contrast between two fields than that between the rigor and precision of civil engineering, immensely useful to our daily life, and the inapplicable abstraction of academic economics. If only economists would stop trying to apply their ideas, they might embarrass themselves less often.

#19 Comment By frank uible On March 27, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

mom: when was the last time any politician was sincere and realistic in any of his public pronouncements about his intentions to take long term action about taxes, government spending or economic growth?

#20 Comment By an eph On March 27, 2008 @ 11:28 pm

Ronit,
the reason why we are where we are now is that people who trade stuff have been learning what the “greeks” are from Wikipedia. It is similar to explaining an Asian studies major from Dartmouth what the CDS is…

#21 Comment By ronit On March 27, 2008 @ 11:47 pm

Still, the people trading those greeks are far more likely to have majored in finance than Asian studies. Hence, going back to my original point about the danger of college finance/econ courses.

#22 Comment By FROSH mom On March 28, 2008 @ 11:00 am

Frank:
Here you go…fresh off the press…Obama’s Economic Proposals. McCain’s and Hillary’s plans are also mentioned.

If the darn link doesn’t take, just google “Obama Casts Wide Blame for Financial Crisis…”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/28/us/politics/28dems.html?ex=1364356800&en=cba83c298a5d5c1a&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

#23 Comment By rory On March 28, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

Free trade is a basic human right? That’s fresh…i didn’t know corporations and governments had basic human rights. LOL

#24 Comment By frank uible On March 28, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

mom: Thank you for your solicitation, but I’m not interested.

#25 Comment By FROSH mom On March 28, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

Frank,
I’m not “soliciting”.

Per comment 15, I thought you were asking…otherwise i wouldn’t have bothered.

#26 Comment By ronit On March 28, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

frank: in future, we’ll ignore all of your questions.

#27 Comment By PTC On March 29, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

Loweeel-
I would like to see a much more detailed analysis of what the agreement entailed and how it might benefit us in the region than what is stated above before I made my mind up about supporting or opposing such free trade with Columbia. The region is not stable. South America has taken major turns to the left since we greatly reduced out influence and power projections after the 1990s. You need to give a more reasoned argument that looks into the regional and political implications. I do not know jack about economics, but I know Central and South America very well, and I am quite certain that it is not a place where we want to push larger amounts of capitol without come serious analysis into the possible benefits and pitfalls of such a policy. Given this administrations track record with our money and trade, why wouldn’t the taxpayers want to have the details? You should post again loweel, with a more detailed argument.

#28 Comment By frank uible On March 29, 2008 @ 1:14 pm

ronit: If you had been prudent, you would have done that all along.