The New New Economy: How We Got Here & What's Next

posted by Lyric Hughes Hale on September 20, 2021 - 2:27pm

Listen Now.

My guest for the 19th episode of the Hale Report is economist Robert Shapiro, chairman of Sonecon, a consultancy for economic and security-policy related issues. You won't find anyone more knowledgable or more thoughtful about the nexus of politics and economics in Washington today. His background explains why; he was in the room when critical policies were formulated that created the world we live in today. 

Dr Shapiro has advised senior public officials, including President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair, senior members of the Obama cabinet and administration, Congress, and executives of numerous Fortune 100 companies. He served as senior economic adviser to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry and Al Gore during their presidential campaigns.

I hope you will enjoy the conversation and learn as much as I did. I always ask my guests how they decided to make a career in economics. Dr Shapiro explained that he began his academic life at the University of Chicago as a philosopher, which taught him how to think, before he studied economics. That perspective, in combination with analysis of data collected by the statistical agencies he supervised as undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs, continues to influence his view of the world.

During Dr Shapiro's tenure under the Clinton Administration, the US actually had a budget surplus, and optimism about the end of history was at its peak. I asked him what we didn't see at the time, as the Internet took off and China joined the WTO: 

What we didn't see, what I didn't see then, and which I don't think anyone saw at the time, was the way in which the globalization of markets would require new measures in public investment in the advanced countries to avoid income stagnation and growing inequality. In the Clinton Administration all we could see were the positive effects, which were enormous, not only in developed countries but in developing countries, we did not see the dark side.

Just a few of the topics we discussed:

  •  Inflation and how much stimulus is too much stimulus
  •  President Biden’s first months in office 
  •  2000 vs the 2020 census
  •  Bill Clinton and the Internet
  •  Was advocating for China to join the WTO a mistake? 
  •  Health care technology and the effects of our aging demographics
  •  The earthquake in geopolitics caused by the demise of the Soviet Union
  •  What issues will blockchain solve: supply chains, elections etc?
  •  Income inequality

Dr Shapiro was not only a participant in the creation of the New Economy as it was called in the 1990's, he is a participant in the New New Economy. He serves on the board of the blockchain investment firm Medici Venture Fund, and is a member of the advisory board of biotech company Gilead Sciences. In this podcast, he shares both his incredible experiences as a policymaker, and where he thinks we are now headed.  

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