Learn About Opportunity Zones
White Virtua Partners Logo
Getting the Big Ideas Right | September 1, 2020

Getting the Big Ideas Right | September 1, 2020

September 1, 2020 Other
 

Over the past several months, I have shared ongoing analysis with our team of investors, owners and community stakeholders in an attempt to best organize and understand the perspectives, priority and governing factors that shape our civil society and geopolitical order.

Public trust in systemic institutions is under increasing stress. The integrity of information is continually rearranged by media companies that choose sensationalism instead of context. Good intelligence on the impact and implications of episodes and events in a changing world is more important than ever.

As a national security scholar and former government official, I have often referred to the advice that General David Petraeus shares with individuals ranging from entrepreneurs to heads of state: Begin by “getting the big ideas right.”

Read More…

Featured Story: Opportunity Zones

The Council of Economic Advisors reports this week that $75 billion has been invested into economic growth in Opportunity Zones to date since the program began. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin anticipated in 2018 that the program had the potential to attract $100 billion in investment. Since the program’s inception, Virtua has been a national leader in implementing best practices and providing feedback to lawmakers on Opportunity Zones.

About the Author

Oliver Schwab is executive vice president of government affairs at Virtua Partners. Oliver supports and provides strategic guidance to the Virtua team, investors and owners with an active voice, shaping and understanding government policy.

In additional to Oliver’s work with Virtua, he leads a family office that he co-founded. Oliver is also trustee and treasurer of a private foundation. He served as a chief of staff in the United States Congress from 2011-2018. Oliver has experience as a principal in tax, trade, financial services and national security policy. He continues to support public diplomacy as a national security scholar.

Oliver is a visiting lecturer at the European Business School in Germany and the University of Warsaw in Poland. He is also a graduate student in strategic studies at the United States Naval War College, China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and has been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and the Council on Foreign Relations. Oliver focuses his research on the relationship between policy, strategy and decision making. He and his wife Ana are the incoming cabinet co-chairs at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Hurricane-LauraHurricane Laura

President Trump spoke with FEMA on Thursday announcing that he would travel to the gulf over the next few days as Hurricane Laura makes landfall.  FEMA has 3.5 million meals and 1.7 liters of water positioned for emergency use.

No-Go: Another Round of Government Funding

On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke by telephone for nearly a half-hour.  Efforts to bring White House and Congressional negotiations to a framework deal on another round of government funding remain a no-go.

Fed Stands Firm on Low Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve made a policy statement this week, making it central bank policy that interest rates would remain low for the long-run.

 

Comparing the Biden and Trump Tax Plan

View the side-by-side comparison of the Biden and Trump tax plans, compiled by Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

 

Election Integrity

Former Vice President Joe Biden has begun receiving daily intelligence briefings, as has been the traditions for non-incumbent nominees in August.  In statements this week, Biden accused China and Russia of seeking to undermine the trust in election integrity.

Understanding Polling

Paul Ritacco, with whom I teach foreign policy in Germany and Poland, shared his insights on the presidential election with his local public television station. Of interest, he drew the distinction that around Labor Day, most public polling shifts from “registered voters” to “likely voters.” This helps explain when polls tighten, because the sample is more aligned with turnout.

$175 Billion Around the World

Global financial institutions have invested $175 billion into civil society since January, in virus-related programs. Of that total, nearly $24 billion has been invested since July. The Center for Strategic & International Studies has more in this detailed report.

Scientists Slow the Transmission of the Coronavirus

Research teams in the United States and Japan have reported their ability to slow the transmission of the coronavirus using oxygen molecules by up to 90% reduced potency.

China Overtakes the United States in Fortune 500 Companies

In 2020, China overtook the United States in the number of Fortune 500 companies, with 124 compared to America’s 121, followed by Japan at 53, France at 31, Germany at 27 and Great Britain at 22. China’s rapid rise can be quantified by looking at its number of Fortune 500 companies in the year 2000, which was only 10.

Trade “Stability” Marks the U.S.-China Trade Deal 6-Month Anniversary

This week, American and Chinese negotiators met by telephone to review the first six months of the U.S. China trade deal signed in January. The agreement opens bilateral commerce between the world’s two largest superpowers. To date, China has invested $40 billion of the $200 billion pledge in American products and services this year. The Peterson Institute for International Economics published this report, which tracks China’s purchase of U.S. goods. This summer, The New York Times reported that the trade relationship between the U.S. and China is “surprisingly” marked by “stability.”

U.S.-China Diplomatic Fragility

As the U.S. trade relationship with China has advanced, its diplomatic relationship continues to experience escalated fragility. On July 10, President Trump stated that the U.S.-China relationship had been “severely damaged” by the coronavirus. The U.S. ordered the closure of China’s consulate in Houston this summer, which was followed by China ordering the closure of an American consulate. On a daily basis, the foreign ministers of both counties have sharp words for one another in public comments. Additionally, the U.S. issued a formal ban Aug. 13 on several Chinese telecommunications platforms operating in the United States.

A Military Episode in the Pacific This Week

American forces clashed with Chinese military exercises in the nine-dash line this week, underscoring the friction characterizing the great power relationship. In an Atlantic Council briefing Friday, Ambassador Robert O’Brien, assistant to the president for national security affairs, articulated America’s firmness that it would continue to maximize pressure and enforce freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to help ensure a secure Pacific theater.

What Henry Kissinger Would Say

In a 2015 interview after writing “World Order,” Henry Kissinger spoke to the fundamental challenge that China poses to American strategy. Namely, he said that America’s success would be determined by its ability to understand the psychological dimensions of China’s 3,000-year history. Whether a Sinocentric world can integrate with the Westphalian tradition of liberal democracies will depend on the ability of the two civilizations to find common ground regarding their cultural and strategic issues. “Whether their concerns can be reconciled with our necessities,” said Kissinger, is the dilemma that will need to be resolved for both sides to cooperate and coexist.

New Strategic Alliances in America’s Petroleum Reserves

The United States Department of Energy has formalized a strategic alliance with India and Australia, allowing both countries to supply additional reserves alongside America’s stockpile.

India Trade Deal on the Horizon

U.S. and Indian trade negotiators are expected to announce a bilateral trade deal in the near future.

DOD Budget Spike

The Department of Defense is forecasting that weapons upgrades required by the expiration of the existing nuclear pact may cost as much as $439 billion a year. The U.S.-Russian New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) became law in 2010 and is set to expire in February 2021. America and Russia held two days of talks this month and the framework of a next-phase deal still remains unclear.

Trade Dispute With Vietnam Over Tires and Currency Valuation

The United States Department of Commerce is reviewing possible penalties on trade with Vietnam, following a report announced this week that claims Vietnam artificially devalued their currency to impact the tire sector. If the department proceeds with enforcement, this will be the first case under a new rule adopted last year with the intent to protect America’s currency valuation.

Travel Abroad From Home!

The Egyptian Tourism Board has partnered with Oxford University to make virtual tours available. These include the 5,000-year-old Queen Meresankh III tomb in Giza, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq and the Coptic Orthodox Red Monastery. Lonely Planet has also created Google Planet walking tours of five cities: Havana, Cuba; Split, Croatia; Melbourne, Australia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Bangkok, Thailand.

Plague Projects …

William Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” when he was self-quarantining during the bubonic plague. Here is a very interesting Oxford lecture on Shakespeare and the social norms of the 16th and 17th century plague.

Launching a Conversation: ‘Getting the Big Ideas Right’

 

Over the past several months, I have shared ongoing analysis with our team of investors, owners and community stakeholders in an attempt to best organize and understand the perspectives, priority and governing factors that shape our civil society and geopolitical order.

Public trust in systemic institutions is under increasing stress. The integrity of information is continually rearranged by media companies that choose sensationalism instead of context. Good intelligence on the impact and implications of episodes and events in a changing world is more important than ever.

As a national security scholar and former government official, I have often referred to the advice that General David Petraeus shares with individuals ranging from entrepreneurs to heads of state: Begin by “getting the big ideas right.”

Over the past several months, I have shared ongoing analysis with our team of investors, owners and community stakeholders in an attempt to best organize and understand the perspectives, priority and governing factors that shape our civil society and geopolitical order.

Public trust in systemic institutions is under increasing stress. The integrity of information is continually rearranged by media companies that choose sensationalism instead of context. Good intelligence on the impact and implications of episodes and events in a changing world is more important than ever.

As a national security scholar and former government official, I have often referred to the advice that General David Petraeus shares with individuals ranging from entrepreneurs to heads of state: Begin by “getting the big ideas right.”

Much of what seems to have so dramatically shifted in the course of human events in 2020 has been what Niall Ferguson identifies as the relationship between trust and freedom.

The coronavirus caught us by surprise. Understanding what that means and how the world continues forward requires a very different kind of thinking than what failed to anticipate the virus. On the one hand, we must protect ourselves and our families, but we also must safeguard the moral decency of human freedom.

Self-governing democracies are not immune from hardship and turbulence in the face of progress in the course of human events. Getting back to normal has been something we have collectively struggled to understand, alongside isolation and uncertainty.

As many citizens have reached out for news, what has emerged is a Clausewitzian friction in public consciousness that many feel is unsustainable. Some equate this loneliness with masks and distance. Others see even more fundamental shifts in the power of ideas in the fog of war.

Understanding is a tool that requires a few extra moments of time to think and the arrangement of context, sequence and order. John Steinbeck described this in “The Sea of Cortez” as “where you think from.”

Stuart Lucas, of The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has coached family offices for decades — including my own — that the best practice for success in life is to operate with the “presumption of goodwill.” As I have had the chance to build my own family office and work with other family offices, I always make a point to relay this wise perspective.

Two years ago, Senator John McCain passed away. The event marked a period of unity that feels far too uncommon in modern American life. I sat in the service and reflected on a man who former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said was “a gift of destiny” — someone who “inspired us to fulfill our sustaining values.” Not only a statesman, the senator was also extremely kind to me, supporting me continually as I served Arizona in the institution of Congress. Senator McCain dared to imagine, just as Kissinger did, peace in a world restored. If nothing more has been the calling of my life, it is the words of Matthew in the Bible: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be the children of God.”

In his eulogy to Senator McCain, President Barack Obama called on the wisdom of Ernest Hemmingway in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”:

“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”

Winston Churchill put it this way to his wife Clementine when his body had been broken from a car accident, but he had refused to allow his spirit to falter, writing:

“Nature is merciful and does not try her children, man or beast, beyond their compass.”

At sea, mariners learn to honor their course with “one hand for yourself, one hand for the boat.” I am a lifelong mariner and have had my Coast Guard Captain’s license since the age of 18. I have returned to the sea throughout my life for guidance. To a people learning to restore prosperity and normalcy to daily life, it is imperative that we “get the big ideas right.” That first big idea is our common humanity — and I thank you for allowing me to extend a hand.

One year ago, one of the most significant experiences of my adult life occurred. It had been my childhood dream to trace the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Last July, I traveled the Missouri River and crossed the Bitterroot Mountains with friends from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, led by historian Clay Jenkinson.

Clay is one of those teachers who imparts wonder and wisdom in the course of everyday conversation. He is a humanities scholar in the utmost sense. He believes in people and ideas.

Just this past winter — before the virus — my wife and I joined Clay on an expedition to Cuba to study the Spanish-American War, Bay of Pigs and Ernest Hemmingway’s works during the 30 years he lived there. Quoting his former Vanderbilt professor, Graham Allison, who has since advised national security leaders on sound strategic thinking for more than four decades, Clay’s message has been something I ponder often when considering perspectives. “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” Clay tells his students. “Judgment is easy. Understanding is difficult.”

During what would later be known as the Nazi blitz, Winston Churchill advised his government to keep their memoranda precise. Ideas need not extend beyond a page, preferred Churchill. It is in that spirit that I begin to prepare an account of strategic considerations and observations that have been the hallmark of my field notes as a student, scholar, government official, university professor and someone who cares about leadership, public policy and working together.

This collection of thoughts on events, and their place in history, seeks to share best practices on how we can, together, “get the big ideas right.”

To that, I address you as “citizen” with a smile and look forward to more to come.

Sincerely,

Oliver Schwab

Crooked Lake, Michigan

Aug. 25, 2020