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Does the U.S. need more industrial policy? Bridgewater’s CEO thinks so

May 7, 2020, 9:52 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Bridgewater CEO David McCormick published a 37-page piece in the Texas National Security Review calling for a much more active government role in developing and promoting American technology and economic power in the world. McCormick and his coauthors call for a national innovation policy to help build a wide range of key technologies like 5G, A.I., bioengineering and more. And he calls on policy makers to “integrate economic and national security policy” to address growing concerns about “the rise of China, the erosion of the American dream, the perceived failures of American leadership, and America’s relative loss of power.”

I spoke with McCormick yesterday, and asked him why the head of the world’s largest hedge fund is calling for a vastly expanded national industrial policy. He cited “a very personal set of experiences”—he is a West Point graduate who served as Undersecretary of the Treasury in the Bush administration before joining Bridgewater in 2009—that has convinced him that “national security and economic security is very bifurcated” in the U.S. government, and needs to converge. “The world is changing a lot, China is the main strategic competitor, and we don’t have as clear a strategy as China in promoting primacy.”

McCormick said he started thinking about the piece six months ago, before the coronavirus hit. But the pandemic “has accelerated the strategic competition and brought to the forefront some of the challenges with China, and raised concerns about supply chains.” You can read the full treatise here, but be prepared: McCormick shares his predecessor Ray Dalio’s aversion to brevity.

More news below. And take time today to read Shawn Tully’s smart take on whether Apple’s share buybacks make sense.

Alan Murray


Chinese exports

Beijing has reported a 3.5% rise in April exports, which is extremely surprising as everyone expected a sharp drop. The surprise was pleasant for the markets, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.6%—despite a 14% fall in the British economy and forecasts for a 7.7% contraction of the eurozone economy this year—and U.S. futures are also looking good. Reuters

Task force

The White House's coronavirus task force will stay operational but will shift its focus to reopening the economy. Thousands of Americans are still dying of COVID-19 each day, with the official death toll (without doubt an underestimate) standing at over 72,000 as of yesterday. Because of the task force's success under VP Mike Pence, Trump tweeted, it will "continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN." Wall Street Journal

Telecoms giant

Liberty Global and Telefónica have finally concluded a $39 billion deal that will create the U.K.'s biggest telecoms group from the merger of Liberty's Virgin Media (the country's second-largest broadband network) and Telefónica's O2 (its biggest mobile network). The parent companies will have equal ownership of O2 and Virgin Media, which combined have 46 million customer accounts. Bloomberg

U.K. economy

The Bank of England has forecast a whopping 30% contraction in economic output over the first half of this year—or even worse if banks drive companies into bankruptcy by refusing to lend to them. The BoE also says the unemployment rate will rise to 9% (worse than during the financial crisis) despite the government's extraordinary decision to pay people's wages. The central bank isn't launching any new stimulus programs, though. Financial Times


Layoff innovation

If ever there was a time to find better ways to lay people off, this is it, writes Fortune's Michal Lev-Ram. The traditional approach of only announcing layoffs as they are carried out is looking shaky, and companies—especially tech startups—are beginning to give people a transparent heads-up weeks before the event strikes. Fortune

NY hospitalizations

Two-thirds of the New Yorkers hospitalized with COVID-19 had been staying at home, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said with surprise. It should be noted that China sees the home as a major breeding ground for infections, which is why it puts infected people in quarantine centers—but then again, New York has to some extent also taken this approach, using hotels for the same purpose. Meanwhile, Cuomo has tapped former Google chief Eric Schmidt to head an effort to "reimagine" the state post-pandemic. Fox News

Facebook appeals

Would you like to know more about Facebook's new "independent" appeals court for users who disagree with the removal of their content from the social network? You should, because it's extremely controversial. Interestingly, as Fortune's Danielle Abril writes, "the cases that are likely to get priority are those that either affect a large number of users, have a major impact on public discourse, or may raise significant policy questions on Facebook." Fortune

Axl vs. Mnuchin

Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose has gotten into a Twitter spat with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. After the hard-rock star tweeted that Mnuchin was "officially an a**hole" (his specific reason for doing so was unclear), Mnuchin retorted with: "What have you done for the country lately?" It's a mark of how weird politics has become that this exchange seems only mildly remarkable. CNBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.