Aspin Fellowship: Noel

Les Aspin ’60 Summer Fellowship: Pascal Noel

With the generous help of the Les Aspin ’60 Summer Fellowship, I was able to undertake a successful internship with the Economic Strategy Institute (ESI) in Washington, D.C. ESI is a private, non-profit, non-partisan public policy research organization dedicated to assuring that globalization works with market forces to achieve maximum benefits rather than distorting markets and imposing costs. ESI believes that because security and national welfare will increasingly depend on performance in the global marketplace, it is important to develop national and corporate strategies to assure that globalization takes place on a level playing field and that the reality is mutually beneficial.

I went in hoping to broaden my understanding of important issues in international affairs and national security, focusing on the political impact of international economic policy. That is precisely what I accomplished. At ESI I was one of only a handful of interns interacting with the President of the institute, Clyde Prestowitz, in an intimate setting. My main responsibilities throughout the summer were twofold. First, I served as a research assistant for his upcoming book, The World Turned Upside Down, that will come out early next year. In line with the objectives of the Institute, this book focused on new socio-politico and economic trends that are reshaping the world we live in. These range from the rise of East Asia, to the aging demographic of the West, to the perils of the current economic system. The point of the book is to explore these trends, extract their meaning and show what their effect would be. In this way, the proper reaction for ensuring continued security and prosperity was pinpointed. My research focus was on the chapter dealing with the global financial system. I endeavored to discover how the changing nature of global society was reflected in the financial markets of the world. This research significantly broadened my knowledge of the subject, and put the financial system in perspective of global problems.

My second major focus during the summer was to write a full policy paper for the Institute. My topic was the diminishing rate of U.S. savings. In this study I traced the historical roots of the decline in U.S. savings rates, noting that the U.S. was not always a chronic low saver and explaining how it became one. The study showed how the U.S. savings rate is adversely impacted by its own domestic, trade, and international economic policies, as well as by those of other countries. Finally, and most significantly, my paper spelled out the likely consequences of staying on the low savings course, including possible U.S. budget problems (for example, the failure of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security), a weakening of the domestic economy, and a collapse of international investment supporting our current account deficit. Writing this paper was the highlight of my experience at ESI for two reasons. First, I gained valuable data compilation and data analysis skills, learning how to analyze economic data and synthesize the results. Second, I learned of a fundamental issue in the world that will need to be addressed by adequate policy today and into the future.

The Les Aspin ’60 Summer Fellowship was essential to helping me meet my objectives. I had to take a part-time job after the workday at ESI in order to get the extra money I needed to fund my studies this year, but this extra job would have taken more time, and eaten into my experience at ESI, had I not received such generous funding. Because of this generosity, I was able to gain the experience and the tools necessary not only to make me a better student, but also to make me a better public servant and policy maker in the future. I would thus like to express my gratitude to Les Aspin and the Committee that carries on his legacy.