A Republican Economist and a Democratic Advisor Debate a Murky Presidential Agenda
At the recent NewCo Shift Forum, Obama advisor Robert Wolf, the co-founder & Chairman of Measure and CEO of 32 Advisors, debated Republican economist Michael Boskin, T.M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford University. At issue was the nascent and often contradictory economic policies of the Trump administration. While the conversation, moderated by political journalist John Heilemann, remained cordial, it didn’t lack for discord. Below is the full discussion on video, and a transcript, edited for clarity.
John Heilemann (JH): Both of you wear a couple of different hats, and have historically. Mike Boskin is the T. M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford, which gives him academic cred that’s really important in terms of thinking about the Trump economy. He also was the head of the Council of Economic Advisers under George Herbert Walker Bush, a very different kind of Republican than the Republican we have now in the White House.
You’ve probably already heard that EO 13771 is a two-for-one deal. It requires that every newly proposed federal regulation be accompanied by the repeal of two existing regulations. And just in case the folks at the FDA or EPA or SEC or any other agency think they can pull a fast one, the order also requires that the total additional cost of all new regulations in fiscal 2017 net out at zero. Read the President’s lips: No added cost!
After leading the team that saved healthcare.gov, Andy Slavitt took the reins of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. Trump didn’t invite him back, but NewCo Shift Forum did.
Take one look at Andy Slavitt’s Twitter feed, and you’d think he was still running the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, the federal agency responsible for our government’s trillion-dollar healthcare budget. But Slavitt left when Trump showed up — and since then, healthcare has moved from political football to existential conundrum. Slavitt’s a man on a mission — he’s deeply aware of the intricacies, politics, and human costs of getting healthcare policy right, and he’s mad as hell about where things are headed under the Trump administration. We brought him to the NewCo Shift Forum just two weeks after Trump took office. Below is the video and transcript of his conversation with Dr. Jordan Shlain — edited for clarity.
Jordan Shlain: We’re going to have a little chat with Andy Slavitt. Andy, why don’t you come on up?
One of the most interesting trends in technology has nothing to do with AI, or machine learning, or the on demand economy. It has nothing to do with informatics and its impact on genomics, or whether (or when) Black Mirror transitions from social fiction to social fact.
No, to me the most interesting trend in technology is simply this: The leaders of the technology industry have internalized the impact of their creations on the world, and they have begun to turn their attentions outward.
Across Washington, the country, and the world, the assumptions people have about various programs, policies and roles have been radically altered in the last 12 hours with the victory of President-Elect Trump. Many of my students and colleagues have asked me — what does this mean for the future of United States Digital Service and 18F? What should it mean?
This is not the most important question facing the administration. But for those of us in this space the question matters. Intensely. And we need a response. USDS and 18F improve how Americans interact with their government while saving significant amounts of money. Democrats and Republicans may disagree over the size of government, but there is often less disagreement over whether a service should be effectively and efficiently delivered. Few in either party believe a veteran should confront a maze of forms or confusing webpages to receive a service. And, the fact is, massive IT failures do not have a party preference. They have and will continue to burn any government without a clear approach of how to address them.
Please vote. Just so you know my bias before reading further, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton.
This post is not aimed at you if you have already decided to vote for Clinton or for Trump. It is aimed at you if you haven’t voted, are considering not voting, or are voting for someone other than Clinton or Trump.
“Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.” — President Barack Obama
Public service is championed across many professions. In law, clerking for a federal judge is considered an important part in many lawyers’ careers. Doctors across the country compete for prestigious research and policy roles within government. Their contributions have pushed us forward and made our country stronger. And they’ve become better lawyers and doctors as a result. Now, there’s a huge opportunity for far more technologists to improve the way government serves Americans everywhere. To make vital services like healthcare and benefits more accessible for millions. To add our voice to policy debates on issues of national or local importance. To accelerate our progress and remain the world’s leader in innovative thinking. But this won’t happen on its own.
The first and most important step is for techies to get engaged. This can take a lot of different forms. It can include getting involved in our local communities. Or it could mean applying your rarefied skills as an engineer, designer, UX researcher, product manager (you get the idea) in collaboration with other experts to make the country work better. Our involvement in the future of our country is crucial.
A British employment tribunal (basically a court) ruled that Uber drivers could not be treated as self-employed. Rather they should be treated as workers, a class which acquires certain employment rights, such as minimum wage and holiday pay, not present in the self-employed. The Court did not class them as employees, a status which would have conferred even more rights.
Last week policy shapers from Washington DC traveled to San Francisco to meet with representatives from across Silicon Valley to promote the Blockchain Trust Accelerator. The event was chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Albright currently serves as Chairman of the National Democratic Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes democracy around the world. The initiative is also sponsored by New America, a technology think tank, and by Bitfury, a full-service Blockchain technology company.
Blockchain, the core technology behind Bitcoin, is receiving a lot of attention from the financial sector and beyond (both Debby Hopkins of Citi, and Bruce Aust of Nasdaq mention it in our Shift Dialogs series). Blockchain’s distributed encryption creates a public, audit-able transaction ledger without any intermediaries. The reason why blockchain works for a currency like Bitcoin is because it cannot be manipulated or gamed. In other words, it provides canonical records that cannot be corrupted.
This functionality has captured the imagination of policy makers because of the obvious benefits for tasks like property records, voting, health care records, identity, market clearance, etc. Blockchain can help assure these transactions are done with transparency and without manipulation.