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Redirect: Leaching away of inside-the-beltway economic expertise

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Original article

A private comment from a knowledgeable inside-the-beltway colleague reminded me that one should think of this political appointee "market as more commodity than employment" and that the "decisive feature" of this vacuum is the "cycle" - precisely the current point in the election cycle. Having lived through a few such cycles, he notes that they are "something to behold up close" but that the current flap is not that "bad or unusual" given the point in the election cycle and the "apparent difficulties of a Republican succession." His opinion was that all the people who "want to cash in on their waning influence... while they can" have already left.

Using a financial analogy, he explained that "political interest rates" are rising and that the "Bush White House influence market is in backwardation." (Classic backwardation is a market condition in which a futures price is lower in the distant delivery months than in the near delivery months.)

My trackback was that I can understand cycle as driver, e.g., lame duck administration and uncertainty of assured party succession, yet am intrigued by the comment that it is not "that bad." Albeit based on limited research, my reading is that the administration's difficulty has been long in effect, i.e., much earlier in the electoral cycle - apparently back to the first Bush43 term. Accepting cycle as driver, I ask what pushes it earlier or pushes it to greater extreme?

Paraphrasing our discussion: Every administration runs through these appointment cycles. At this low point, working levels rise to policy level, i.e., the individual in the "acting" capacity may have been doing all of the work prior to the vacancy while some of those in an acting capacity will shift their focus to policy soundness over the conforming of policy to agendas or ideologies. Condoleezza Rice was pointed out as an example, effectiveness included, of why the National Security Advisor Rice was different from the present SecState Rice.

As I cannot remember a more divisive political environment - at least in the postwar era - my feeling is that the "dissolution of the center resulting in polarization and an adversarial relationship between the parties as well as between government and academia" have made the cyclic effect you cite far more extreme. (The effect that I had in mind is what physicists call superposition: in wave mechanics, superposition is the interference of waves, or summing of amplitude's at the point of intersection; similarly, in quantum mechanics, the summation of probability distributions that represent possible states of a system. (In lay terms, the Tacoma Narrows bridge went down to superposition/resonance of standing waves.))

Yes, there is no doubt that the recent scandals have had their effect as have the rise in polarization, but the underlying driver is still cycle. There are emerging signs of a return to a less divisive center. Note the "recent rise to prominence of Hagel and McCain" and the "recent rapprochements between Rice and [Brent] Scowcroft, and Rice and [James] Baker.

It can't come soon enough.

Gordon Housworth



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