Q&A | Tower Scholar studies trade, U.S. leadership

The Tower Center sat down with Tower Scholar Matthew Reitz, class of 2017, to discuss his research on U.S.-Japan security, and more recently, free trade. Reitz, a political science and international studies major, spent June studying in Japan with Professor Hiroki Takeuchi. He is now pursuing a research project with Hunt Mexico examining the effects of free trade agreements on labor wages.

Why did you choose Asia as you area of focus for the international studies major?

We’re living in the Asia Century. Asian states have rapidly developed their economies in the past 70 years, and now they’re beginning to play an increasingly important role in international relations and global governance. These states are contributing to peacekeeping and economic development but they’re also competing for resources and prestige, and they are modernizing their militaries. The United States has a lot of opportunity in the Asia-Pacific to demonstrate its leadership, foster cooperation to avoid conflict, and enable economic growth for all parties, but  we need to play an active role in the region. We need people who understand Asia’s history, its cultures and its peoples.

What stood out to you about the culture in Japan?matthewjapancrop

I was in a hurry to get to the campus library one morning and forgot to turn off the fan in
my room. When I came home later that day, my host mom told me people in Japan are conscious of wasting energy and reminded me to be more careful in the future to avoid leaving electronics on. This is just one example of the environmental awareness I saw while in Japan. In America, many of us leave our lights on at night, throw our recycling into trash cans or leave the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s different in Japan. They take efforts to minimize their environmental impact and its part of their daily life.

What do you consider to be the most pressing security issue for the U.S.-Japan relationship?

 The most pressing concern for the U.S.-Japan security relationship is managing the rise of China. China could be a responsible international player or an aggressive one that attempts to rewrite the rules in its own favor. The United States, being the dominant power and protector in the Pacific, and Japan, being a major regional power, naturally need to work together to engage China diplomatically to ensure peace.

Your research for Hunt-Mexico switches focus from security to free-trade. What impact do you expect to find free trade agreements have on labor wages?

Changing from security issues in the Pacific to examining the impact of trade at home lets me research a global issue that has significant ramifications locally. In this election cycle we see a lot of hot air about “free trade” versus “fair trade.” Many Americans feel left behind by agreements like NAFTA and are worried that agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership could have the same effect. Examining the impacts of trade on a specific sector like energy will help create a greater understanding of trade for policy-makers and activists alike.

I suspect to find that NAFTA positively impacted energy-sector wages for skilled workers since it significantly reduced barriers to trade and increased investment in capital and infrastructure. The energy sector was one of NAFTA’s big economic winners but there’s still the question of how unskilled workers were impacted. I suspect NAFTA had adverse effects on unskilled workers since there’s greater access to cheap labor. This likely would have depressed wages as major energy companies could look across the border if local wages are too high.

How has the Tower Scholar program shaped your goals and aspirations for the future?

Even before becoming a Tower Scholar, I always had this hunch I’d end up doing something in the international relations field. The Tower Scholar Program, from the Iran Nuclear Deal case project last year to my free trade research this year, builds a solid foundation for me to do so. I hope to enter the State Department’s Foreign Service one day and serve the United States. as a diplomat. The Tower Scholar Program has taught me how to think critically and strategically, work on a team with diverse view points, and undertake independent research, all of which will prove invaluable in my future endeavors.

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September Texas Economic Update: Pia Orrenius, Dallas Fed

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Watch Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius give the September Texas Economic Update. “The worst of the energy crisis may be over,” she said.


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Student Blog — Thomas Schmedding | Strategic Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy

Tower Scholar Thomas Schmedding interviewed Dr. Kenneth Schultz, professor of political science at Stanford University, before his lecture “Strategic Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy” Sept. 7.

In the 2016 American political season, the vastly different perspectives of foreign policy continue to serve as a key point of debate between the presidential candidates. While it is easy to advocate for specific policy options, we generally fail to recognize the interests and preferences of other actors, as well. In order to postulate the possibilities and limitations of American foreign policy, Kenneth Schultz from Stanford University discussed three key dilemmas that have challenged policymakers in his lecture Sept. 7: force vs. restraint, stakes vs. leverage, and coercion vs. reassurance.

Force vs. Restraint

Addressing the first dilemma, Schultz argued that because terrorist organizations successfully embed themselves in local populations, applying force in an attempt to eliminate the terrorists could harm civilians, driving them to radicalize and join the terrorist group. Therefore, in certain situations military restraint is preferable because the use of force can be counterproductive. With this in mind, Schultz mentioned the need for inclusive democratic growth in fragile contexts that are susceptible to militant non-state actors. “When groups are systematically deprived of [democratic] resources and powers, they tend to shift more towards extremism,” he said.

Stakes vs. Leverage

The second dilemma, stakes vs. leverage, becomes an issue when the stake a state holds in kkied-1a client increases, and as a result that state’s leverage decreases. This dilemma was best depicted by a simulation of three SMU students as provincial governors in Afghanistan with a varying array of financial support from the United States. The exercise demonstrated that because the United States gives more money to nations battling insurgencies, the incentive is to exaggerate the effects of insurgency and corruption within local governments in conflict areas rather than to rid the nation of the insurgency.

Coercion vs. Reassurance

A final exercise to explain the third dilemma, coercion vs. reassurance, was a graphical representation of the dilemmas nuclear disarmament presents from the perspective of the adversary. Americans typically perceive nuclear disarmament as a scenario where an adversary can make the decision to disarm or face sanctions from the United States. Often discounted, however, is the perception by adversaries that they are making themselves weaker by setting a precedent for giving in to demands. This decision can be a risky process for adversaries. Prior to the lecture, I mentioned to Schultz that this game theory approach sounded like a quasi-geopolitics version of Newton’s third law: “For every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction.”

Schultz concluded by pointing out that while the United States is the most powerful nation in the world, it is not all-powerful. He recommends the U.S. exercise restraint when making foreign policy decisions. “We cannot be narcissistic, we have to be strategic,” Schultz said.

I generally agree with the decision to restrain, but was curious how America’s foreign policy-making institutions could adapt to new constraints in the future. This idea largely stems from the idea that domestic and international conditions facing the United States have changed a lot in the past 25 years, while the ideas, policies and institutions supporting American foreign policy have seen little transformational change. We are inherently clinging to old ideas because change is difficult. “America’s foreign policy institutions are very sticky and tough to adapt to major changes,” Schultz said. “We have seen more informal flexibility, as opposed to formal institutional changes. For example, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security has allowed for greater resistance. With that said, the United States came out of the Cold War extremely powerful and essentially forced adversaries to come up with a different strategy.”

Listen to Dr. Schultz’s lecture at the Tower Center:

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Tower Scholars PortraitsThomas Schmedding is a senior from Apex, North Carolina majoring in management, international development & social change, and public policy with minors in economics and international affairs. He is an intern for a public-private partnership between USAID and The Kaizen Company, as well as SMU’s Student Representative to the Board of Trustees for Student Affairs. Previously, Thomas has seven completed internships in the public, private, and social sector, both in the United States and abroad

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Andrew Jackson: The Patron Saint of Donald Trump?

A Donald Trump presidency, like that of Andrew Jackson in 1829, would be driven by emotion, according to SMU historian Aaron Crawford.

Crawford, from SMU’s Center for Presidential History, gave the Tower Center’s September jacksonandtrumpbbflmonthly seminar lecture: “Injury, Rage, Audacity: Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, and
the Creation of the ‘People’s Candidate.’”

Crawford explained the appeal of a candidate like Trump or Jackson as a symptom of people’s desire for a hero. They know he isn’t perfect, but they don’t care. They want someone with a strong temperament– authoritative even — and someone who they believe means well.

Voters weren’t deterred by the fact Jackson shot a man who he disagreed with, and, as Trump said at a rally in Iowa “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

After the devastation of the War of 1812 and the economic panic in 1819, Jackson’s supporters saw an America “that didn’t win anymore.” They believed the U.S. had been humiliated. This attitude, prevalent in today’s electorate, paired with a political class ignorant of voters’ feelings, lends itself to the rise of a ‘people’s candidate’ like Jackson or Trump.

“What really binds them together is this idea of victimization,” Crawford said. “The personalization of every issue.”

Listen to Crawford’s lecture:

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DMN: Why immigration may be good for the feds and bad for states — for now

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, commented on a report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in the Dallas Morning News. The report found that immigration helps the economy in the long run, but has mixed impacts in the short term.

Economy reporter Jill Cowan highlights four takeaways from the 500-page report.

Read the article here.

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The Latino Vote in the 2016 Election


Left, UCLA Professor Matt Barreto; right, Rep. Cesar Blanco. Photo by Denise Gee

The Tower Center and the Latino Leadership Center for Development cohosted an event, “The Latino Vote in the 2016 Election,” at Jones Day Law Office Sept. 20.

Matt Barreto, professor of political science at the University of California Los Angeles opened the discussion with a look at the potential of the untapped Latino electorate.

The Latino population in the U.S. is significantly younger than the white population. As of November 18, 1.7 million Latinos will be 18 and eligible to vote, according to Barreto.

He argued that immigration remains to be the unifying issue that mobilizes voters, and used protests against Donald Trump to illustrate its unifying force. Eighty-one percent of Latinos polled after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland said that they found the GOP’s rhetoric “disturbing,” Barreto said. With Trump as the Republican nominee, the percentage of Latinos polling Republican has greatly declined since George W. Bush received 40 percent of the vote.

The discussion continued with Texas Representative Cesar Blanco, who talked about the under-representation of Latinos in government rolls. Twenty-eight out of the 435 congressional seats and three of the 100 Senate seats are held by Latinos. Blanco, as interim director of the Latino Victory Project, is working to get Latino officials elected. “If you’re not at the policy table, you’re the lunch,” Blanco said.

A final takeaway from the discussion: Latinas are engaged at higher rates than Latinos. “Our research shows the most influential person in families for Latinos, in terms of politics, are their mothers or their wives,” Barreto said.

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Jim Hollifield talks free trade, Gary Johnson in the Dallas Morning News

Tower Center Academic Director Jim Hollifield was interviewed in the Dallas Morning News article, “One presidential hopeful with two beneficial policies for Texas isn’t in the debates” by business columnist Mitchell Schnurman Sept. 20.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson did not poll high enough to participate in next week’s debate. However, Schnurman writes that neither Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall on the Mexico border, nor Hillary Clinton, who opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, support free trade and immigration. Johnson does.

“Texas stands to lose as much as any state if we go down this path,” Hollifield said.

Read the article here.

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Tower Center Fellow Alexander Betts suggests focus on development at White House, UN refugee summits

Tower Center Fellow Alexander Betts, director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian discussing the upcoming White House and United Nations summits on refugees and mass migration Sept. 17.

Betts suggests that, since refugees are often stuck in camps for decades, refuge itself should be about development just as much as it is about humanitarianism. “It needs to offer jobs and education to the nearly 90% of the world’s refugees who are in developing countries, including the majority who are now in cities,” Betts wrote.

Read the full essay, “UN and White House summits could offer a ray of hope to those stuck in camps,”  here.

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Bush Institute essay explores connections across North American borders

The George W. Bush Institute published an essay exploring life across the North American continent and the cross-border connections that affect everyday lives. The essay, written by Matthew Rooney, Laura Collins, Sarah Reid and William McKenzie, is divided into three sections focusing on different areas: San Diego/Tijuana, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Detroit/Windsor.

Read the essay here.

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Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius: Texas Economy Exceeds National Averages

Good news for Texas: Despite the faltering energy industry, the Lone Star state experienced an increase in incomes and a decrease in poverty last year according to the Dallas Morning News.

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius, senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve, was interviewed in the Morning News article “Income up, poverty down: Texas exceeding U.S. in key economic numbers” Sept. 15.

“It’s a great report and it’s great for us,” she said. “You don’t see any impact from the oil bust.”

However, the News also reported that high child poverty rates are still a concern. This is especially true in border counties, which Orrenius said is because of the higher population of recent immigrants in those areas.

Read the full article here.


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