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  • 14 Jun 2017 11:35 AM | Deleted user

    By Daniel Zuchegno

    Speaker: T.R. Reid

    At The Washington Post, T.R. Reid covered Congress and four presidential campaigns, served as the paper's bureau chief in Tokyo and London, and has reported from 4 dozen countries on five continents. T. R. Reid has written ten books in English and three in Japanese, and translated one book from the Japanese. His 2009 book "The Healing of America" became a national best-seller. PBS Frontline made two documentaries, "Sick Around the World" and "India--A Second Opinion" following Reid as he did the reporting for that book. T. R. Reid's newest book: "A Fine Mess -- A Global Quest for a Fairer, Simpler, and More Efficient Tax Code" was published in April, 2017. It suggest what the U.S. should and should not do as Congress embarks on a major effort at reforming our federal tax system. T. R. Reid has made documentary films for National Geographic Television, PBS, and the A&E Network. His latest PBS film was "U.S. Health Care: The Good News," which is being broadcast by PBS affiliates around the country. Reid is Chair of the Board of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, has served as Kai-cho, or President, of the Japan-America Society of Colorado, Chairman of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care, and on the boards of Princeton University and several other community and national organizations.

    While it is common to complain about taxes and believe that we in the United States are overly taxed, the average single American pays about 25 percent of their paycheck for income tax and social safety taxes — which in the U.S. include programs like Social Security and unemployment insurance.  But when compared to other high-income nations, Americans typically are taxed on the lower end of the scale: the U.S. ranks No. 25 out of the 34 developed nations according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.  Looked at in a different way,  the US total tax burden, Total US tax revenue as a percent of GDP is 26 percent, significantly below the 34 percent average for developed countries  While many of our taxes are lower than those of other nations, the US corporate tax is an exception.  Out of the 34 countries in the OECD, America ranks first with a 39.1 percent corporate tax rate, compared to an OECD average of 24.1 percent.

    The concept of tax efficiency implies the minimization of the cost of complying with the tax code by reducing its administrative burden, of both the tax agency and the tax payer, and minimizing any distortions in the economy caused by the tax.  In other words, we don’t want the tax to change any specific behavior from what would have occurred if there were no tax. Tax equity is the principle that taxes should be fair.

    There are, however, several criteria for determining what is fair. The benefits principle states that people should pay taxes based on the benefits that they receive from government services. For instance, taxes on gasoline are used to build roads and bridges. The more you drive, the more gasoline you use, the more taxes you pay. The more you drive, the more benefits you receive from good roads and bridges. Seems simple enough, and fair. What about income taxes?  Taxes on income and investments are a bit more complex, and we need to look at several additional concepts. One concept is the ability-to-pay principle.   Ability-to-pay introduces two additional ideas to complete the discussion: vertical equity and horizontal equity.Vertical equity is the principle that people with higher incomes should pay more taxes, as they have a greater ability to pay. Horizontal equity is the principle that people with equal abilities to pay should pay the same amount of taxes. A common application of this principle is the provision for the numerous deductions and tax credits available for people who have children, allowing them to pay less tax for a given level of income.


    One further concept is the idea that there is a declining marginal utility of money.  Anyone who has ever gotten sick after eating the fifth piece of double chocolate fudge at any of the shops in Estes Park is very familiar with the concept of diminishing marginal utility or diminishing marginal value.  It is argued by my fellow economists that money, similar to fudge, has a diminishing marginal utility or value as the amount of money one earns or owns increases. It is generally held that those with higher income and wealth should pay more taxes, based on the benefits principle, the ability-to-pay principle, and the marginal utility principle. The benefits principle applies because the wealthy profit more from police and fire protection, the court system, and national defense, since they have more to protect.  Based on the ability-to-pay and marginal utility principles, the wealthy should pay a greater percentage of their income, since any given percentage of income is more valuable to the poor than to the wealthy.  The more difficult question is how much more.

    During his talk, Mr. Reid asked if anyone believed the current US tax system was as simple as it can be and if it is fair and efficient.  As Mr. Reid pointed out, all three parts of the questions are very inter-related. A few statistics offer perspective on our tax code. It's estimated that taxpayers spend $19.6 billion on compliance efforts each year related to the estate and gift tax: the IRS expects to collect just $20 billion from the tax in 2016. Recall that one aspect of an efficient tax system is that you minimize the cost of collecting a given amount of tax revenue.

    Americans spent more than 8.9 billion hours complying with IRS tax filing requirements in 2016. To put that in context, that works out to 222,500,000 full work weeks (assuming a standard 40 hour work week). You'd have to work 4,278,846 years straight to hit those kinds of numbers.  All in all, tax compliance will cost the U.S. economy $409 billion this year. (That's the word out of The Tax Foundation). It should be noted that these costs are substantially higher than most any other developed nation.

    The length and complexity of the US tax code is the major cause of the difficulty of compliance.  Our Tax Code in 1955, the Internal Revenue Code, was 409,000 words long. Today, it's about 2.4 million words long (depending on who you ask): almost six times as long as it was in 1955 and almost twice as long as in 1985.

     Why all the complexity?   Congress uses the tax code to undertake social and economic engineering, sometimes on their own accord, other times, at the behest of strong lobbying groups.  Besides trying to promote or limit certain activities, much of the complexity of the tax code results from Congress giving preferential treatment to particular groups. This preferential treatment is provided not only in the way the tax is basically structured, but also in the form of tax loopholes which allows taxpayers to take advantage of the laws.  Other additions to the tax code cater to a variety of special lobbying interests. For instance, Boeing saved $158 million in 2010 through the research-and-experimentation tax credit and ConocoPhillips saved $82 million through the Domestic Production Activities Deduction. There is a separate tax on fuel used in commercial transportation on inland waterways, as well as a special surtax on fuel used in aircraft which are part of a fractional ownership program . There is a special designation on income earned from the ownership of natural resources, income as a deferred compensation, income from investment companies, and banking institutions. 

    Perhaps the largest designation of income by the IRS is the distinction between wage income and non-wage or investment income. Working or wage income is taxed the most, investment/financial income is taxed considerably less, and gratuitous transfers are taxed the least, if they are even taxed at all.  On working or wage income, there is an increasing marginal tax rate and an employment/payroll tax, while non-wage income is treated differently and taxed at different rates. For instance, the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax is applied only to income at or below the inflation-adjusted wage base limit for Social Security, which, in 2015, was $118,500.  No employment taxes were applied to investment income — which is why they were called employment taxes, only assessed on working income.  In 2013, a new net investment income tax was enacted, otherwise known as the Medicare surcharge, applying a 3.8% Medicare tax on investment income earned by people with an income of at least $200,000 per year ($250,000 for a married couple).  A movement toward more equity at the expense of simplicity. 

    Other attempts at equity such as aid to families with dependent children, health cost allowances, mortgage deductions, allowances for charitable contributions,and more, are generally well intentioned, but add to the complexity of our tax code.  It seems the complexity of our tax code is a series of piecemeal attempts over time to impact specific behavior and/or attain a greater degree of efficiency and equity.  Regardless of the cause of the complexity, one more thing is certain, the more complex and difficult it is to pay taxes, the more revenue the tax filing industry earns.

    Is there any way to simplify our tax code?  Mr. Reid argues yes, and addressed re-occurring attempts to do so, talking in depth about one such attempt, the flat tax, an income tax system where everyone pays the same percent of their income in taxes.

    However, given our current distribution of income in the United States, there isn’t a flat percentage rate for taxes that would be able to generate needed revenues without effectively raising tax rates for poorer income earners. Mr. Reid proposed an alternative to the flat tax; an increasing marginal tax rate, i.e. a progressive tax, with few or essentially no deductions or credits, that applies to all income, whether it be working, investment, or inherited income. With essentially no exceptions or “loopholes”, rates could be much lower than they are currently, with less of a burden on everyone yet yielding more tax revenue. Is tax reform a reasonable expectation?
  • 01 Jun 2017 10:53 AM | Deleted user
    By Daniel Zuchegno

    Speaker: Robert Daly

    Robert Daly was named as the second director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center in August, 2013. He came to the Wilson Center from the Maryland China Initiative at the University of Maryland. Prior to that, he was American Director of the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing. Robert Daly began work in U.S.-China relations as a diplomat, serving as Cultural Exchanges Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in the late 80's and early 90's. After leaving the Foreign Service, he taught Chinese at Cornell University, worked on television and theater projects in China as a host, actor, and writer, and helped produce Chinese-language versions of Sesame Street and other Children’s Television Workshop programs. During the same period, he directed the Syracuse University China Seminar and served as a commentator on Chinese affairs for CNN, the Voice of America, and Chinese television and radio stations. From 2000 to 2001 he was American Director of the U.S.-China Housing Initiative at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Daly has testified before Congress on U.S.-China relations and has lectured at scores of Chinese and American institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution, the East-West Center, the Asia Society, and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He has lived in China for 11 years and has interpreted for Chinese leaders, including Jiang Zemin and Li Yuanchao, and American leaders, including Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger.

    Mr. Daly began his discussion describing the rise of China and mentioning that China’s rise is legitimate and that the United States has never dealt with a country like China.  China combines physical size, military strength, and an economic presence that has never been seen by the West.  China has a population of 1.4 billion people; its annual population growth rate currently stands at only 0.44 percent (largely due to its three-decade-old one-child policy).  This growth rate ranks China 159th among the world’s fastest growing countries, and it is expected that India will overtake China as the most populous country in a little over a decade.  China’s GDP in terms of purchasing power parity is the largest of any nation in the world. China is the world’s largest exporter with more than $2.5trillion of exports and approximately $1.3trillion of imports, resulting in a positive trade balance of more than $1trillion.  China’s top exports include computers, broadcasting equipment, telephones, integrated circuits, and office machine parts. Its top imports are crude petroleum, integrated circuits, gold, iron ore, and automobiles.

    China’s annual GDP growth rate is slowing but is still 7.4 percent, ranking it as the 14th fastest growing country in the world.  China’s gross national saving is 49.5 percent of its GDP, making China fifth among countries with the highest saving rate. China’s per capita GDP is $12,900 per person. 

    The immense volume of Chinese exports stems from three basic sources: rising labor productivity, relatively low wages, and a favorable exchange rate for Chinese currency.  For a variety of reasons, labor productivity growth in China, especially in manufacturing, has been relatively high and increasing over the last several decades. With a large supply of rural labor ready to take factory jobs, wages have been quite low relative to productivity.  As the available supply of rural labor diminishes, manufacturing hourly wages have tripled to $3.60 between 2005 and 2016, making Chinese labor more expensive than that of other middle-income economies such as Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.  Manufacturing wage increases accompanied rises in the overall average wage in China, which more than doubled to $3.30 per hour during the same period. As wages in China begin to rise to the levels of labor productivity, they are approaching the hourly rates of higher income countries like Greece and Portugal. Studies by the International Monetary Fund propose that the combination of these changes will result in China moving from having a vast supply of low-cost workers to being a labor-shortage economy between 2020 and 2025. 

    The above numbers describe an economy that is transitioning into a more consumer oriented economy versus a pure export driven one. It is expected that China will be producing a very different set of goods in the near future from what it has produced until now.  With rising wages, China is home to the largest number of middle-class families of any nation in the world resulting   in an increase in demands for consumer oriented goods. The rise in wages also creates opportunities for new lower wage countries to emerge elsewhere, allowing these lower-income countries an opportunity to pursue a China-style growth miracle. 

    Additionally, a more affluent China would have a stimulating effect on the overall global economy. The size of its economy could mean considerable increases in exports to China from other countries including the US. Mr. Daly pointed out that this rise in consumerism can be seen today in the US movie industry as movie producers cater to the second largest number of movie goers in the world in China. China also has the largest number of college students, the world’s largest bullet train network, the largest number of internet users, and the largest digital network in the world.

    Given this economy, how does the United State deal with China?  China relies heavily on sea lines of communication and has a very distinct desire to build its military to protect and maintain its sea presence in South East Asia. China’s economic power and desire to develop its military presence presents a unique challenge to the US. China is a comprehensive power representing a potential threat to US pre-eminence.  Mr. Daly pointed out that President Trump’s approach to China is very transactional.  President Trump ties policy agenda items together preferring to negotiate a transaction, policy X for policy Y. For assistance with North Korea, President Trump seems to have eased on criticism of Chinese exchange rate management policy and international trade in return for Chinese assistance with North Korea. The tying of issues and not addressing other topics seems to have empowered China to believe other issues are off the table and not up for negotiation. Issues such as human rights, Taiwan, China’s military presence in the South China Sea, and environmental issues, are in essence off the table as they are not part of the current negotiation. 


    Prior US administrations pushed a series of agenda items independently, striving to attain agreements on each item and maintain a consistent perspective on a spectrum of issues, unwilling to negotiate or give in on US policy.  Mr. Daly pointed out that the piecemeal transactional approach being conducted by President Trump forestalls discussion on many strategic issues and sends a signal that everything is up for negotiation. From all appearances, China desperately wants a sphere of influence regionally and globally. The more China obtains a dominate role in areas around the world, the more difficult it becomes for the US to be a reliable ally not only in the Pacific Rim,  but also in other parts of  Asia and Africa.

    Historically, the US has voluntarily reduced its presence in parts of the world due in part to a moral and political imperative in support of social justice. China is somewhat amoral in its dealings around the world, using its rise to economic dominance as a tool to promote China’s influence outside of China and to some degree replace US hegemony. This form of gradual aggression must result in the development of an institutional strategic attitude toward China and a reevaluation of the US role in global affairs.
  • 05 May 2017 12:58 PM | Anonymous

    By Daniel Zuchegno

    Speaker: Ambassador Celso Amorim

    Mr. Amorim is a Brazilian diplomat who served twice as Brazil's Minister of External Relations, from 1993 to 1994 and from 2003 to 2010. He was also the Minister of Defense from August 2011 to December 2014. Between 1987 and 1989, Celso Amorim served as the Secretary for International Affairs for the Ministry of Science and Technology. He helped to create UNITAlD, of which he is currently Chair, and is part of two United Nations Secretary-General panels: High-Level Panel on access to medicines and High-Level Panel on Global Response to Health Crises. He was also in charge of drafting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

    He served twice as the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations in Geneva and the World Trade Organization (1991-1993 and 1999-2001). Mr. Amorim was the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations in New York from 1995 to 1999 and the Ambassador of Brazil to the United Kingdom in 2002. He is also a Permanent Member of the International Affairs unit at the University of Sao Paulo.

    The event was cosponsored by the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver

    At the event, Ambassador Amorim spoke of the Brazil’s role and influence in global affairs and the future of Brazil’s presence on the global political stage.

    History shows that to be respected and accepted as a global leader, a nation must be an economic power, commanding a large share of global output and trade.  The nation must also have a stable political climate domestically, be a military power, and have a global mindset or willingness to be an active participant of the global community.  Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world in both territory and population. It is a country without significant linguistic, cultural, racial, ethnic, religious or regional internal conflict. Since 1985 and the end of the twenty-one-year military dictatorship, Brazil has become a stable democracy, the world’s fourth largest, with regular, fair and free elections based on universal suffrage.  Its economy is the eighth largest in the world with one of most advanced industrial bases in the developing world having an impressive stock of  natural resources, Brazil is one of the world’s major exporters of agricultural produce and minerals and  is largely self-sufficient in energy becoming a net exporter of oil. Brazil is a world leader in alternative, renewable-energy technology, especially in the production of ethanol. The future of the Amazon rainforest, which is 75% Brazilian, is central to international environmental concerns.

    Brazil has an outstanding record as an essentially non-military country having one of the longest periods of peace with its neighbors..  Brazils regional influence can be seen in its active pursuit of  a policy of  engagement, both economic and political, with its neighbors - especially in South America, to a lesser extent in central America (including relatively little involvement with Mexico) and the Caribbean. Its relationship with the United States is generally good, but remains complicated; Brazil, for example, has resisted the US agenda for the economic integration of the western hemisphere. 

    Brazil is a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS), founded in 1948; and the country’s presidents have attended all five Summits of the Americas held since 1994.  It is  committed to the formation in 2011 of a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (with thirty-two members - that is to say, all the states in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada). 

    Despite the country’s strong ties with the developing world and its extraordinary growth in its imports and exports, Brazil had been unable to acquire the decisive status it had long desired due in part to its failure to complement diplomacy with a commanding lead in its military power. In recent history, no great power has acquired a determined voice in international affairs without a major investment in military manpower and hardware.  Despite its moderate military strength, Brazil has participated in 33 U.N. missions since 1948, contributing around 27,000 troops to peacekeeping activities throughout the world in such diversified locations including Suez, Mozambique, and East Timor. Since 2004, Brazil has led the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) with the largest contingent of forces in the country, and in 2011, the Brazilian Navy took command of the Maritime Task Force at the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

    Ambassador Amorim argued that under president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazilian government international relations was prompted by three policy dimensions: an economic diplomacy, political reform, and a social agenda. This internal triad of policies under Lula had significant international impacts, since they were an answer to the need for an agenda that sought  to deal with the asymmetries brought about by a globalization policy based only on free trade and foreign direct investment ascribed to Washington and Europe. Such actions as the stimulus to internal markets and savings, domestic internal production and the reforms of domestic industrial capacities were seen by the Brazilian government as being impeded by the global development policies of the world’s dominant industrial nations.

    The combination of domestic social, energy, urban and agrarian productive policies showed a political will of the Lula  government to exercise a strong  hand  in the  global defense  of Brazilian economic interests. Brazil embarked on an intense international agenda, transcending a subordinated approach to globalization in favor of a more active leadership role leading to actions that could affect the course of regional and world events.

    As a global trader, Brazil wished to keep its relations with different areas of the world, giving priority to Mercosur and South  American  integration. As soon as Brazilian diplomacy started to contest some guidelines of US hegemonic power and stress its autonomy, a certain amount of leverage was created.  Subsequently, Brazil was able to call attention to the social-economic demands and infrastructure projects being pursued both internally and regionally with its neighboring nations.

    Brazil’s diplomacy dilemma was to face the unavoidable and tough dialogue among opposites,by strengthening its stance in the world and in South America. Friendly, but defiant, Brazilian diplomacy created its alliance with developing countries that were affected by the global trade and political policies of  the G20 nations. In broader terms, in the first years of the Lula administration,  Brazil strengthened—and in some cases established—strategic partnerships with China, India, Russia, and South Africa. As a result, the nation created new channels of cooperation among developing nations, such as the IBSA Dialogue Forum—a mechanism for cooperation and political consultation involving India, Brazil and South Africa.  Another channel was the establishment of a summit process involving Arab countries and South America and, separately, African countries and South America.  

    Brazil’s multi-lateral coalitions, bi-lateral strategic partnerships and South-South alliances have enabled the country and its partners to fill a power vacuum in the international field in an effective and rapid manner. Brazil’s international presence prevented what was an essentially unbalanced trade negotiation process—based on the “Washington Consensus”—from becoming reality.  By sticking to its principles rather than giving into the prescribed globalization model, Brazil was able to protect and continue its internal policy development options.

    Although  Brazil’s emergence in the global economic and political arena has been rapid and impressive it remains to be seen whether it will be able to continue on this path or see its influence slowly decline as other nations begin to emerge. Several commentators have argued that Brazil’s rise in influence in global affairs has not been due to the rising importance of the Brazilian economy or its influence in global trade but due almost exclusively to the skill, integrity, and stature of its very capable diplomats such as Ambassador Celso Amorim. Ambassador Amorim’s presence and discourse at the World Denver event only serve to fuel that impression.

  • 10 Apr 2017 1:01 PM | Anonymous

    By Daniel Zuchegno

    Early in the event, the panelists pointed out that ISIS and Sunni jihadism have a long history and have been present in various forms before Al Qaeda. Each panelist referred to the complex set of historical religious and political relationships that render a simple approach to ISIS inappropriate.  Attempting to paint a broad picture of these relationships, we can look into the political and religious geography of the area.  In Iraq, although the majority of the Iraqi population is Shiite or Shia, Saddam Hussein was a devout Sunni.  Over time, Hussein and the Baath party obtained political power in Iraq and Hussein ruled the nation from 1979 till 2003 when the US attacked Iraq and overthrew Hussein. The fall of Hussein led to the establishment of a Shiite majority government in Baghdad and the beginning of recriminations against the Sunni minority,


    In nearby Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabi movement led to a “model” society of Sharia observance and moral virtue.  Although Saudi Arabia is largely Sunni, the government does not share the radical ideology of violence prescribed by ISIS and does not publicly condone the actions of ISIS.  Jordan, like Saudi Arabia, also has a Sunni majority that does not share ISIS’ radical views. Unlike the government of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah of Jordan has shown to be more willing to join the fight against ISIS. King Abdullah’s involvement, however, represents a fine political tightrope as many Jordanians wonder why their monarch has joined the American-led coalition against jihadists from the Sunni dominated Islamic State (ISIS).


    In Syria, the political and religious factions are more interwoven.  President Bashar al-Assad is Alawite, a form of Islam that dates back to the 9th and 10th century, which has suffered from periodic persecution by the Syrian Sunni majority. The rise to power and continued execution of control by the Al Assad family is the result of a complex set of historical alliances between leaders of the Sunni Baath party and the Alawite minority. The civil war in Syria, beginning almost seven years ago, has led to an ever more complex series of rivalries in the country with minority religious groups tending to support the Assad government, while the overwhelming majority of opposition fighters are Sunni Muslims, not necessarily ISIS.


    A discussion of ISIS must recognize the connection between ISIS and its control over territory, in particular, a strong connection to specific areas in Syria and Iraq.  The conflict in Syria has made for a patchwork of control over vast areas of Syria. The chaos in Syria and the lack of a strong central government in Baghdad have combined to provide an opportunity for ISIS to claim control over vast areas of territory in both nations and an opportunity to proclaim a home for its newly created Sunni caliphate. The reality of ISIS is that the Islamic State is Islamic, very Islamic, following a medieval tradition of fundamental Islamic teachings which have been absent for hundreds of years. Although much of what ISIS looks like appears nonsensical, it can be seen as a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and creating a formal caliphate to enforce traditional Islamic mandates of the prophet Mohammed.  Giving support to the growth and presence of ISIS and laying the foundation to the question, what ISIS really wants, Anjem Choudary comments, that, “Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives… These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate.


    The final discussion of the evening addressed two interrelated questions; what are the similarities and differences between Al Qaeda, and why have so many westerners abandoned their homes and families to migrate to ISIS?  It was agreed that unlike Al Qaeda which was a clandestine operation resulting in substantial intelligence being expended by the west to search out and find members of the organization, ISIS is a twenty first century social media organization which uses Twitter, Facebook, and other global social media. Through the continual communication and dissemination of its ideology, ISIS has become a “caliphate of the imagination”, spurring individuals from the west to take action, to play a part in the creation of a utopia based on the strict adherence to the ISIS form of Sunni Islam. It seems that the ideology has given many recruits a sense of purpose, a belonging that fills the void for many who believe that their lives and society have failed them. 


    All the panelist agreed that ISIS ideology is a serious threat to the world and argued that it is a threat that cannot be defeated on one front and is a struggle the US cannot win alone or quickly given the complexity and magnitude of the issues in question. Everyone reiterated that this fundamental ideology was driven in part by widespread bad governance, shifting social mores, and the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.  Ambassador Hill added that without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete and that the best approach to addressing this myriad of issues is a multi-faceted approach that does not rely on military intervention but instead addresses some the foundational issues of religion, development, and justice upon which the ideology is based. This long term multi-pronged attack must be based on defense, diplomacy, economic development, and aid.


    A conclusion for the evening can be found in Ambassador Hill’s statement that the US must stay engaged with all the parties involved in the issue arguing that the US must lead the resistance to ISIS collaboratively being careful not to try and impose our will on others.


    I thank all the panelists for their many valued writings as well as their comments during the World Denver event that made this discussion of the topic possible.  


    For more information on ISIS and the region, the following links provide a broad spectrum of information.


  • 10 Apr 2017 12:37 PM | Anonymous

    By Daniel Zuchegno

    Discussions of the existence of a special relationship between the US and the UK has its origins in 1946 in Fulton, Missouri. In a speech given by Winston Churchill at Westminster College, Mr. Churchill addresses not only the role of newly created transnational institutions such as the United Nations but the role of free people to strive to maintain freedoms for everyone,

     “…All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should lie in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind. Let us preach what we practice - let us practice - what we preach.”

    “I have now stated the two great dangers which menace the homes of the people: War and Tyranny. I have not yet spoken of poverty and privation which are in many cases the prevailing anxiety. But if the dangers of war and tyranny are removed, there is no doubt that science and co-operation can bring in the next few years to the world, certainly in the next few decades newly taught in the sharpening school of war, an expansion of material well-being beyond anything that has yet occurred in human experience.”

    “Now, while still pursuing the method of realizing our overall strategic concept, I come to the crux of what I have traveled here to say. Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States.”

    Later in his Missouri speech,  Mr. Churchill muses: "Let no man underrate the abiding power of the British Empire and Commonwealth." Yet less than a year later, the US Secretary of State Edward Stettinius wrote to President Roosevelt and said: "Never underestimate the difficulty an Englishman faces in adjusting to a secondary role after so long seeing leadership as a national right."

    What makes this special relationship dynamic is the subsequent interaction between the two nations. Whether it be a disagreement of how to partition Palestine in the post WWII period, or failure of the UK to inform the US of their military intentions at the Suez Canal, or the UK refusing US requests to send troops to Vietnam during the early stages of the Vietnam War, or any number of other disagreements, each nation will always have distinct and at times disparate views.  Regardless of the existence of often times divergent policy choices, the panelists agreed that there is a much stronger alignment of political, social, and economic views that will continue to dominate the relationship between the two countries.

    It was pointed out by the panelists that despite the strong cultural bonds between the two nations, we must continually work  to maintain and expand our relationship.  The panelist’s pointed out that the UK-US relationship has pragmatic implications as the resources of each nation must be used to promote the common values of freedom and the role of government to protect and maintain the liberties Churchill described . 

    It is this recognition of the pragmatic foundation of the UK-US relationship that was on display in a passionate discussion by the panelists in the WorldDenver event.  From the opening  discussion, the panelists reiterated the existence of a very strong and deep relationship between the US and the UK.  The consensus was that the unique relationship between the two nations wasn’t based in a historical narrative of our founding citizens. It wasn’t due to our connections on language or heritage. The relationship was based, as Churchill stated, on an overriding  consensus in our belief of individual freedom and the role of each nation in maintaining this freedom.

    The panelists unanimously stated that this special relationship had several practical foundations. The key foundations or elements of this relationship were described as;

    - Our long standing sharing of intelligence, the “5i’s”.  The Five Eyes alliance initiated in 1946  through a series of  bilateral agreements is a global surveillance arrangement of nations comprised of the United States National Security Agency (NSA), the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters(GCHQ), Canada’s Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). The Five Eyes alliance  share intelligence, military technology,  and military strategy and mission.

    -A strong sense of political cooperation and respect. Both nations share core values in the specification of the role and limitation of government and a commitment to protect civil liberties for everyone. This cooperation is based on mutual trust and understanding among the two governments.

    -All of the panelists agreed that a further pillar of this relationship can be attributed to several very interrelated issues, a commitment to education and a strong economic and business relationship between industries and companies in a variety of sectors.

    It was stated repeatedly, that both nations value and promote education and recognize the value of education in building a strong economy and capable leaders in global business and commerce.  It was  pointed out that the UK is the single largest investor in the US and many US firms hire large numbers of UK citizens and vice versa. 

    The issue that many in the audience wanted addressed was the impact that Brexit was going to have on both the US and the UK. It was pointed out that although the UK is leaving the EU it is not leaving Europe. The Brexit vote was  not anti-Europe but more of a populist vote for self-determination of UK concerns. The panelists agreed on two fronts, (1) the future birthed from this vote is to be determined as the UK must renegotiate trade and economic relationships with the rest of Europe and the US and (2)  these negotiations will provide  an opportunity to again place the UK in a key position in the world, holding not only a special relationship with the US but a special relationship with the rest of Europe.

    For more information you can look into the following links. -The Sinews of Peace by Winston S. Churchill, 1946 in Fulton Missouri.

  • 03 Mar 2017 10:33 AM | Anonymous

    By Casey Sacks

    Last year when I met Nadezhda, Nadie, she lived in my house for about a month during a Russian Business Leaders (RBL) program. We had a wonderful time together, cooking meals, spending time with friends and family, and talking about world affairs and politics. She spent her days in Colorado an internship program. And after work and on the weekends we got to spend time together. 

    Fast forward to 2017. As a part of her RBL project Nadie invited me to Russia. We share a common professional interest in higher education and using education as a driver for economic development. She is working on a project in Russia to help universities better serve businesses by customizing training to meet employment needs, something I specialize in. As a result of our shared interest, her project in Russia emerged as a conference jointly attended by business and university leaders to talk about how they could more effectively partner. 

    As part of my visit, Nadie developed an excellent conference. She had faculty and deans for four major universities in Russia and dozens of businesses come to the table to learn from each other. Businesses I'm very familiar with, like Microsoft and Mars, said similar things to Russian universities about their workforce needs as what I would expect them to say here in the United States about similar employment issues. I had the opportunity to be a morning keynote and then spent time in workshops with my Russian colleagues. 

    Later, Nadie arranged meetings with university leadership at their home college campuses. That allowed me to see the Russian university system in action and also helped her build connections for her business interests. The priority I consistently heard leadership speak to was about becoming ranked on the list of 100 best universities in the world. While some US colleges do chase rankings, I work with community colleges and we most definitely do not chase rankings. Our interests are largely about access, learning, completion, and job placement. Rankings aren't something that enter my talks with colleagues and it was a shift for me to consider what the priorities must be for the Russian Universities with increased rankings as a primary goal (perceived prestige, spending, publications, and English speaking faculty).   

    My time in Russia drew to an end quickly. But while I was there I got to present at a world class conference, present at my Embassy, meet colleagues at half a dozen universities to discuss mutual interests in serving industry more effectively by creating students who were prepared for work. I also got to help students at Education USA to understand and consider community colleges as affordable and accessible options for their own international education experiences. While the professional development I gained from this month was incredible, the most valuable and cherished part of my experience was talking to Russian people. Spending time with Nadie. eating and drinking tea, spending time with friends and family, and talking about world affairs and politics are the things that I will continue to cherish the most back here in the United States. 

  • 28 Feb 2017 2:31 PM | Anonymous

    By Daniel Zuchegno

    United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Series: Clean Water and Sanitation


    The World Denver event on February 22 concentrated on goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Series.

    Panel:             Eleanor Allen, CEO of Water For People

                            Paula MacIlwaine, Deputy CEO of American Water Works Association

                            Katy Sill, Water and Sanitation Advisor in the USAID Water Office

                            Dr. Marshall Davert,  president of MWH

    The panel was moderated by Allegra da Silva advanced Water Reuse Engineer at MWH Global.

    Each of the panelists described  their efforts in the broader spectrum of  global water and sanitation challenges touching on two major themes of water and sanitation issues. Each of  the panelists presentations  helped to illuminate these issues surrounding development goal number 6.

    The issues:

    One,  global facts associated with a lack of drinking water and proper sanitation and the impacts of  not having clean and viable sanitation.

    Two, how do we achieve these goals  and ongoing efforts to achieve them.

    The panelists mentioned that despite substantial strides being made in the area of water and sanitation, approximately 83% and 70% of countries reported falling significantly behind the trends required to meet their defined national access targets for sanitation and drinking-water, respectively.

    • 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without.
    • At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.
    • Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent
    • Water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise.
    • 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines
    • More than 80 per cent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal.
    • Approximately 70 per cent of all water abstracted from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation.

    The panelist mentioned that sustainable targets have been to cut the deficits in half then reduce them by half again.  These iterative targets for drinking water  have been met in 147 countries but were slightly less successful for sanitation goals.  Rather than continue on this path the new development goals are to ensure availability of sustainable management of water to everyone by 2030, a very ambitious but attainable goal.

    What are the impacts of not meeting development goal number 6?

    Each of the panelists mentioned that clean water and sanitation have impacts throughout an economy.  By managing water sustainably, society can better manage production of food and energy and contribute to jobs and economic growth.  It is rightly argued that proper water and sanitation is a key foundation for achieving many other development goals, including improved health and gender equality. Additionally, we can preserve our water ecosystems and their biodiversity,

    Just looking into the health impacts, each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases.  More than 2million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases.  Poor hygiene and unsafe water are responsible for nearly 90 per cent of these deaths.  The lack of access to clean water and sanitation also has detrimental effects specifically on young girls and women. In most societies, women and girls are delegated to fetch and carry water to homes. The time it takes to go to a local well and carry water back to the point of use often precludes girls from attending school and getting an education.  The lack of restrooms, latrines and sanitation in schools also precludes young girls from being able to attend school and receive a formal education.  This  covert form of gender discrimination slows economic growth and development in an economy and ascribes women to a second class of citizenship.

    The second aspect of the program concentrated on what can and is being done to achieve  millennium goal number 6.  From a cost perspective it is estimated by The World Health Organization that the total annual cost of meeting the sanitation target is just over $9.5 billion. If the full cost of tertiary wastewater treatment for waste streams in urban areas is added, the total rises to $100 billion. Clean water capital costs are estimated to be around $35billion annually. The panel reminded those in attendance that the maintenance and upkeep of a water system must also be determined and met  in order to achieve a sustainable water and sanitation system.  Given these costs, it is estimated that achieving the water and sanitation MDG target  could generate economic benefits, ranging from US$ 3 to US$ 34 per US$ 1 invested, depending on the region. A more than acceptable return for any project.  A return that begs the question as to why more isn’t being done given the human and social costs associated with less action.

    In summarizing the issues of water and sanitation projects globally, the panel emphasized that smaller projects are often times more manageable and sustainable than larger mega projects that exist today in many major urban areas. The panelists agreed that  in terms of the governance of services, a well-run utility demonstrates four key characteristics:

    •          They are managerially and financially autonomous.
    •          They are accountable to their stakeholders.
    •          They are efficient.
    •         They are customer-oriented.

    Following are several links that provide additional detail of global efforts in the area of water and sanitation.

    United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Series: Clean Water and Sanitation


  • 14 Feb 2017 4:31 PM | Anonymous

    By Zachary Adams

    Visitor: U.N. Secretary General (as of January 2017) António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres
    Country of Origin: Portugal
    Program Year: 1978
    Travel Itinerary: Washington, DC; Denver, CO; San Francisco, CA; Grand Canyon, AZ; New Orleans, LA; Orlando, FL; New York, NY; Boston, MA

    On January 1st, 2017 former Portuguese Prime Minister (1995-2002) Antonio Guterres officially began his role as the 9th Secretary-General of the United Nations. We at Meridian International Center were delighted to hear this, as Mr. Guterres participated in an IVLP that Meridian facilitated in 1978. This blog entry will provide insight into his program and introduce his professional background and objectives in travelling to the United States at that time. For those interested in more information about his current agenda, you can read about it here.

    Let us make 2017 a year for peace.” – @Antonioguterres, January 1st, 2017

    When he was selected to participate in the IVLP, Mr. Guterres was a leading Member of Parliament within the Portuguese Assembleia da República (Assembly of the Republic). He was also acting as both the National Secretary for Research of the Socialist Party of Portugal and the President of the Parliamentary Commission for Economy, Finance, and Planning. His responsibilities in both positions likely contributed to his interest in having “discussions with politicians, academics, and bankers in the area of economic problems and Portuguese-American relations.” These exchanges would take place with a variety of actors over a month-long period in cities including Washington, DC, San Francisco, and New York.

    Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC – Boston, MA)Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC – Boston, MA)Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC – Boston, MA)Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC – Boston, MA)

    Mr. Guterres began his IVLP experience in Washington, where he met representatives of several public and private sector organizations, including the Treasury Department, the State Department and the World Bank. The next day he travelled to San Francisco to meet with educators and bankers about the state of economic relations between the U.S. and Portugal. Shortly thereafter, he had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona before travelling on to New Orleans, where he examined the role of local government and federal/state relations in the United States.

    After a stopover in Florida, Mr. Guterres traveled to New York for professional meetings on topics such as the relationship between the U.S. federal government and the central banking system. He visited Niagara Falls briefly before finishing his IVLP in Boston, where he met with faculty from the Harvard Business School and several departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At these two major research universities, Mr. Guterres examined programs of study and explored perspectives on U.S.-Portuguese relations.

    From there, the rest is history.

  • 17 Jan 2017 2:25 PM | Anonymous

    By Ilana Kurtzig

    On December 14, WorldDenver welcomed a panel of foreign affairs superstars to speak to member and guests about Middle East Policy in the upcoming Trump Administration. Barbara Slavin, career journalist and acting director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, moderated the panel. The panel members were Ambassador Chris Hill, now Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.


    The conversation was insightful and, at times, heated as panelists discussed the history of U.S. policy in the Middle East, the questions surrounding Trump’s strategy (i.e. does he have a strategy?), and lessons learned from decades of work in diplomacy. One of the big questions for the panel was whether the new administration would tackle old problems or begin to take on new problems. Syria, Russia, Middle East politics; these are the worn problems. Taiwan and China? Those are newer, and to the panelists, it is a mystery why Mr. Trump would chose to revisit the China/Taiwan issue at this juncture. Two of the main reasons to tread lightly at the moment, said Crocker, are 1) the unintended consequences of getting involved can be severe, and 2) that disengagement proves over and over again to create spaces for unsavory groups to flourish. Hezbollah replacing the Palestinian Liberation Organization, ISIS from Al Qaeda in Iran were two examples. The succession of failed systems and a series of "isms" have continued to fill vacuums left by engagement and disengagement tactics from the U.S., said Crocker.


    So, where does the U.S. want to go, asked Slavin. "We need a strategy in Syria," answered Hill, "and we want to see a policy review that requires more than 140 characters," he continued, referring to Mr. Trump's penchant for making policy statements through Twitter. The U.S. already moved in Iraq and flipped power from Sunni to Shia leaving the country in company only with Iran in terms of its leadership - thus creating a problem demonstrated by the Iraqi question: Why are we living under Shia rule when no one else is? Crocker agreed that a policy is a wise move, but warned that ridding the world of ISIS means nothing if we make no considerations for what the aftermath would and could be.


    The panelists agreed that all of these questions need to be viewed with an eye on Russia as diplomatic decisions by the new administration begin. Mr. Trump has nominated administration members who have strong ties to Russia. With a strong National Security Adviser (and National Security Team, for that matter), Secretary of State and a series of strategies, the direction of Middle East policy in the new administration might become clearer. At the moment, we're all waiting for that strength to appear and solidify.

  • 03 Nov 2016 12:49 PM | Anonymous

    By Ilana Kurtzig

    On July 15 of this year, rogue elements of the Turkish military attempted to take control of the government of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That same evening, they failed. On October 5th, Dr. Henri Barkey of the Woodrow Wilson Center came to Denver to give WorldDenver members and guests insight into why the coup attempt took place and the repercussions for Turkey, the Middle East and Turkey's relationship with the United States.

    Turkey has been divided for years, Barkey began. These divisions he said can be directly linked to two conditions present in Turkey: 1) the secular-religious divide, and 2) the Turkish-Kurdish divide. Both of these divisions said Barkey are the result of changes instituted by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk when he secularized the nation under a dictatorial military system. Ataturk left intolerance of people of faith, and spread the idea that all living in Turkey must be ethnic Turks. This latter stance is the root of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict which continues today.

    For many years, people did not take seriously the importance of these divides said Barkey. For this reason, the country has been simmering.  More recently, president Erdogan, who came to power in the early 2000s, moved to consolidate his power, moving away from a more liberal position. In order to do this he formed an alliance with Fethullah Gulen (the very person his government is now holding responsible for the coup attempt, and the person Erdogan is pushing the US to extradite).

    Since the coup attempt, which Barkey said was carried out rather poorly and was certainly not "textbook coup," Erdogan has continued to further consolidate power. He has arrested and jailed military generals, colonels and other personnel, reducing the size of the military by 150,000 in two months' time. He declared an emergency government thus allowing himself to take action without due process. He has fired school teachers and journalists effectively removing opposition and the ability for children to be educated in the fashion the country has become accustomed. Currently, said Barkey at least 90% of the newspapers are now government controlled. One result of this is the rise in conspiracy theories, said Barkey. One of the more widely spread theories, he said, is that the US government was behind the coup attempt. There is no substantial evidence, however, that Gulen or the US government is responsible.

    Despite this, said Barkey, there will be repercussions not only in Turkey, but also for Turkey's foreign relations. Domestically, Erdogan continues to consolidate power and has replaced almost all of his cabinet and ministers with "yes men." According to Barkey, Erdogan might move to change the constitution to gain more power. Unfortunately for him, said Barkey, there is no one to take his place once he leaves power so there is opportunity for religious factions or some other group to take control. As far as foreign relations are concerned, Turkey is now problematic for all countries in its region. The Kurdish fighters are the only ones willing and able to take on ISIS and the US is allied with Syrian Kurds which will further strain US-Turkish relations in the near future. Turkey and the US still have a strong relationship, said Barkey. Only time will tell how it evolves.

    About Henri Barkey: 

    Dr. Henri J. Barkey is the Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is the former Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor at Lehigh University. Barkey is also a former public policy scholar at the Wilson Center. His most recent works include Turkey's Syria Predicament (Survival, 2014) and Iraq, Its Neighbors and the United States, co-edited with Phebe Marr and Scott Lasensky (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2011). He served as a member of the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff working primarily on issues related to the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and intelligence from 1998 to 2000.

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