NOW THAT THE BUSH-KERRY DEBATE SCHEDULE IS OUT, one of the irritating facts about these sessions is that they create false divides between policy challenges that need to be considered at a systemic level.
Jim Lehrer will moderate the foreign policy debate, and domestic policy will come as the last of the three scheduled exchanges. Are energy questions domestic or foreign policy? Do drugs and organized crime constitute a domestic or foreign policy challenge? Do the topics of alternative fuels and global warm remediation efforts fit on the domestic agenda or foreign policy agenda? And what about the jobs question we used to hear so much about but hardly seems part of political discourse right now.
I subscribe to Alan Tonelson‘s Globalization Factline — and often get some very interesting factoids that are fun to probe and prod speakers with. The September 16th Factline fax reports:
# of U.S. high tech jobs lost from start of last recession, March 2001 to April 2004: 403,300 jobs
# of U.S. high tech jobs lost from end of last recession, November 2001 to April 2004: 206,300 jobs

I have been mired in some of these questions on trade adjustment, retraining, outsourcing, and the impact of productivity gains on the jobs base for quite a while and don’t feel that there is a silver bullet policy fix that will solve America’s job loss problem. What is clearly missing, however, is an honest discussion of these issues — and the Bush team seems to be arguing that no strategy is the best strategy for this economy.
For a contrasting set of views from the U.S. Business and Industrial Council, where Alan Tonelson works, you can hear a roster of speakers at a Cato Institute/Economist forum who ‘mostly’ toe the manic neoliberal line.
This conference, titled “Trade and the Future of American Workers,” takes place all day on 7 October and features Roger Ferguson, Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board; Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Greg Mankiw (remember his debate with Laura Tyson recently?); Economist Economics correspondent Zanny Minton Beddoes; Cato VP for Research (and major thorn in the side to those who worry about dumping in American markets) Brink Linsey, McKinsey Global Institute Director Diana Farrell (oversaw McKinsey’s controversial outsourcing study), and the Washington Post‘s Sebastian Mallaby (Zanny’s husband and an important writer whom I’ve discussed on The Washington Note before and who used to be at the Economist).
I like these folks and intend to take part in the conference, but I think that the audience will have to be the generator of alternative policy notions. Sebastian and Zanny, married but not always in agreement on policy, both think neoliberalism — while preferable generally — can be taken too far, or at least be applied poorly in terms of policy. When one current and former Economist magazine correspondent represents the left flank of opinion at a forum like this, well….
But I give credit to Tonelson as well as to the Cato Institute and the Economist for organizing a forum that has nothing to do with Bush’s National Guard service, Kerry’s war medals, or the CBS memos.
We need to be debating the important things. I’m trying and hope others will as well.
I like giving informal advice to the Kerry campaign through this blog. I know that some of them are reading it — and occasionally sneer at stuff I suggest.
But, wouldn’t it be cool if John Kerry showed up on the steps of Cato and gave his own recipe of policy proposals to seriously address the question of “Trade and the Future of American Workers”?
George Bush hasn’t done this — and Kerry might appeal to some of the 1.2% of the electorate committed to a libertarian presidential candidate out there who might be impressed with such a move. Yes, in this race — those small slivers of voters really matter.
If you haven’t read it yet, do read Clay Risen’s “Tanked: How Bush Lost the Libertarians,” which ran in The New Republic.
The article is great because it argues that the Cato Institute is no longer dependably committed to Bush, mostly because of the war and big government realities that Bush has brought to his tenure. The truth, however, is far more complex and interesting. Cato is divided between many on its economic team who are vigorous supporters of Bush and the Iraq War — and those on the defense/security side who are classically libertarian and thus opposed to the muddled over-reach of this administration.
Anyway, John Kerry could have some fun with this if he has any time in his schedule on October 7th.
— Steve Clemons