Asking the right economic questions

Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing several nominations. The transportation folks were focused on J. Randolph Babbitt, nominated to be FAA Administrator and John Porcari, nominated to be DOT Deputy Secretary. Techies wanted to hear from Aneesh Chopra, nominated to be Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology at OSTP and Larry Strickling, nominated to head NTIA. But also in that mix was Rebecca Blank to be Commerce Under Secretary for Economic Affairs. This is an important and often overlooked position – one that is critical to our innovation and intangibles agenda. The previous Under Secretary, Cynthia Glassman, was instrumental in pushing for better understanding of intangibles (see her remarks at our December 2007 conference).
Thus, it is important that the Under Secretary ask the right questions. In her testimony before the Committee, Dr. Blank got it right:

Particularly in the current economic environment, as we deal with the worst recession in the past 60 years, good economic analysis is in high demand. I look forward to taking on some questions that are particularly relevant to the Department of Commerce and its interests; questions such as “How is the current recession leading to restructuring in manufacturing industries in the U.S. and abroad and what are the implications for jobs, productivity, and profits among U.S. manufacturers?” “Is the U.S. as competitive as it should be? Which industries are leading in productivity, innovation, and competitiveness in the U.S., as we come out of the current recession?” or “What would rapid growth in environmentally-focused products mean in terms of industry and job expansion?”

That sounds like a good start. As the head of our economics statistical system, I hope she continues the work of her predecessor – with the focus innovation and intangibles.

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