Sunday, July 6, 2008

Jeffrey Sachs Lecture

Mr Sachs came to speak at the Vassar chapel on April 24th and it was clear that he's a great guy. He wore fairly tight jeans and a casual shirt, he squinted his eyes when he smiled, and he was doing the talk pro bono. These are fairly old, but here's my notes from his talk, because I'm about to throw away the binder they were in:
  • My friend Brian on why so many people showed up: "If it were just economics nobody would care, but it's ending poverty."
  • Bush sucked, in the future you should "have beer with your friends, but vote for somebody who can solve your problems."
  • John McCain apparently believes that the transcendent problem of our time is Islamic extremism, which garners scattered chuckles in the audience.
  • "I'm an economist so I chase the money. What is it costing us to be short-sighted?"
  • Finally, his 10 policy recommendations for the next president:
  1. Get out of Iraq.
  2. End the (ever controversial) Bush tax cuts for the rich, ostensibly totaling $250 billion.
  3. Create a new national institute of sustainable energy with $30 billion of it.
  4. Come back to the 1992 UN framework on climate change, which we signed. (Here. I add that it does not legally bind us to action, and that Clinton had no intention of signing Kyoto either.)
  5. Join other areas of international law: one for biodiversity, UN conventions on the law of the sea, and the Geneva conventions (for which the crowd went wild).
  6. Understand how to help poor countries. Stop subsidizing ethanol production.
  7. Invite leaders of African and Middle Eastern countries to a "dry lands" initiative to fight drought.
  8. ?
  9. Get eyes and ears back into the US government.
  10. When we don't act, people die. Stick to the UN millennium development goals: stop poverty, hunger, and disease.
And yes it was long-winded. I agree with numbers 1, 6, and sort of 7, I don't understand 4, 9, or 10, I disagree with 3 and 5, and I disagree with 2 with the caveat that we stop spending, but that's a whole other issue. If I was trying to be funny I would say that the only one I liked was number 8, which he apparently forgot about. Maybe you have to buy his book to get access.

Bottom Line: Government has done some terrible things but if we could just get the right people in office everything would change. And whatever you do, don't vote for McCain.