HodgBlog: public policy

Budget Cuts

I heard an interesting report on NPR yesterday about the cotton trade. The story is basically that the US got sued by Brazil at the World Trade Organization (WTO) court over illegal (under WTO rules we have agreed to) cotton subsidies that the US government gives to US cotton farmers. Brazil won the case and its several appeals. However, in spite of the ruling, the US kept the subsidies in place, so Brazil threatened to retaliate with trade sanctions, which forced the US to negotiate a settlement with Brazil.

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How to Educate the Poor

I recently read an interesting book by James Tooley called The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves, published by the Cato Institute.

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What's up with California?

What is going on with California lately? Last year, they passed an initiative that banned gay marriage.

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Towards a Green Economy

I recently read The Green Collar Economy, by Van Jones (with a forward by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.). I think President Obama must have read it too, since the ideas he's been talking about lately for fixing the economy are basically the same as what Jones sets out in his book. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Here are the main points from this book:

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Big Walls

I took a trip to Asia this past August and September with my dad, for six weeks. We visited the Russian Far East, Siberia, Mongolia, and China, traveling independently; most of the traveling was via the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. I plan to get some photos and thoughts posted here eventually, but as you probably know if you read this blog regularly, I don't make time for writing very often, so I'm not sure when.

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The Current Economic Crisis

Because I used to work on Wall Street, some people I know are under the (incorrect) impression that I'm an expert in all things financial, and they have been asking me if I can explain how we got into our current state of financial collapse. So, I thought I would write a short summary of my understanding of how rampant greed around the practice of sub-prime lending led to a full-scale financial crisis.

First, let's set the scene: the sub-prime lending market. Here's a brief summary of how it worked:

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Food and Global Warming

World leaders are finally realizing that we're facing a food crisis: they're currently having a meeting in Rome to discuss it, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently stated that we need to grow 50% more food by 2030 to satisfy needs (I believe this is a conservative estimate). This is not much of a surprise to me -- I mentioned the upcoming food crisis in my earlier article on biofuels, and it's also related to the energy situation I discussed before that .

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Economic Growth

I have been thinking a lot lately about economic growth. It seems like the news media, and practically everyone else, assumes that if the economy is growing, it's a good thing, and if it isn't, something terrible is occurring. This assumption has been bothering me for a while, and I recently read a book that put my vague uneasiness into words: Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben. In this book, McKibben makes the following points:

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A Trip to Olympia, or How I Became a Lobbyist

On February 11th, 2008, over 1000 people from over 70 countries, all of whom now live in the state of Washington, visited Olympia (our state capitol) for the second annual Refugee and Immigrant Legislative Day. I decided to take a day off work and attend. Here are some observations from the day:

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Housing and Schools

The city that I live in (Shoreline, a suburb just north of Seattle) closed two elementary schools this year, and the city of Seattle has also been talking about closing schools, in both cases because the number of children enrolled in school has declined. Yet the population of both Seattle and Shoreline must be increasing, as houses are replaced by condo buildings and apartments, so I had been somewhat confused about this...

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