Robert D. Hormats is the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs. He was formerly vice chairman of Goldman Sachs (International) and managing director of Goldman, Sachs & Co.
Hormats has also served as ambassador and deputy US Trade Representative, and senior deputy assistant secretary for Economic and Business Affairs at the US Department of State. He was a senior staff member on the National Security Council and senior economic advisor to National Security Advisors Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Hormats has received the French Legion of Honor and Arthur Fleming Award.
Mr. Hormats has been a visiting lecturer at Princeton University and is a member of the Board of Visitors of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Dean's Council of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Mr. Hormats' publications include Abraham Lincoln and the Global Economy; American Albatross: The Foreign Debt Dilemma; and Reforming the International Monetary System. Mr. Hormats earned a B.A. from Tufts University with a concentration in economics and political science; an M.A. and a Ph.D. in international economics from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Topic: The 2008 US Presidential Election
Robert Hormats: I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that candidates for public office are going to have good solutions to the crisis of integrity in our life – in our public life. And it’s not because politicians can’t have integrity. Of course they can. I don’t dump on politicians the way some people do.
It’s because it’s not a problem the government can fix. It’s a problem that we have to decide to fix in our private lives.
I would like to see candidates talk more about poverty; but I worry a lot that Democrat and Republican candidates alike use it mainly as a club to hit us over the head. It’s not so much whether they’re committed to in their campaigns in a serious way. It’s more a tool for making other people look bad. It’s really unfortunate.
If you look at the trends, for example, in the black community, the trend toward income stratification – that is the well-to-do black people getting better off, and the worse-off people getting worse off – that’s gotten worse under the [George W.] Bush administration. It got worse under the [Bill] Clinton administration. It’s just been getting worse for years. It’s not a left-right thing. It’s just been getting worse, and getting worse, and getting worse.
Most of the trends; there are some that are on an uptick. Most of the trends in the black community that are troubling, and that are going in the wrong direction, have been going in the wrong direction for a long time. So it’s not a matter of which party is in power; it’s that it takes more to fix them.
There’s a need for public solutions. There’s a need for some policies. There’s also a need for private solutions; a need for people to try to fix some things from within as well.
I’m not terribly sanguine about our willingness to do either one of those things. I’m not terribly sanguine about our willingness to do the things that will cost money in the public sector. I’m not terribly sanguine about our ability to encourage marriage, which might cost people ideological points. And if we can’t do those things, then I don’t know what the future is for these problems. I honestly don’t know what it is we’re going to do.
And understand, when I say poverty, I mean it in an absolute sense. I don’t care in America if rich people get really rich. I don’t care about who’s got the most money. I’m interested in people at the other end. It’s not that, oh goodness, the rich people have money; the poor people don’t. I’m interested in why is the reason people don’t have money is because rich people have money; or is there some other reason?
It’s important to know why poor people are suffering – to be able to fix their suffering. And I think too often we guess at why they’re suffering. And sometimes we guess wrong. And yes, sometimes there are some problems that could be not repaired, but it’s __________ we’d spend more money and I wish we would. But not every problem can be helped along that way.
Recorded on: July 25, 2007