Sunday, August 12, 2012
It's the Economy, Stupid!
The quote above was the slogan of Gov. Bill Clinton's campaign from 1992. It's been used ever since to bring attention (back) to the issue more people care about than any other. And as President Reagan famously asked America in 1980, "are you better off now than you were four years ago?" We have two choices for President in November, so let's look at both candidates in relation to the economy.
First, President Barack Obama. As a senator from Illinois he did not have any particular experience putting people to work. In fact, he ran somewhat as a Washington outsider against Sen. John McCain and then-President George W. Bush. He can't run as an outsider now, of course. He brought "hope" to the 2008 campaign; he can't do that now, either.
So let's look at the facts. The unemployment rate in January 2009, the month he took office, was at 7.8%. The average Dow Jones index for the week of January 2009 was 8,599.18. Gasoline prices in January 2009 were approximately $2.35 a gallon (depending on where you lived).
Last week the unemployment rate was 8.3%. The Dow Jones index was 13,165.19. And gasoline prices, though fluctuating, were at $3.89 a gallon here in Columbus, Ohio. So the New York Stock Exchange seems to be in better shape, gas is more expensive, and unemployment is slightly worse.
As for Governor Mitt Romney, he grew up in Michigan, the son of an automotive executive who became governor (1963-1968) and then ran for President against Richard Nixon. In 2003 to 2007 Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts. The month he took office, January 2003, the unemployment rate in his state was at 5.6%. The month he left, the unemployment rate was at 4.7%. (Just as a reference, the years 2003 thru 2007 were before Lehman Brothers and Fannie Mae kick-started the economic meltdown; national unemployment rates were 5.8% and 4.4% at those times.)
So do these statistics tell us anything? Maybe that the "economic recovery" hasn't really kicked in yet. Did we not already know that?
In my opinion the best way to improve the economic situation is to have more people working. If you have more people working, you have more people buying. And if you have more people buying, you have more people working to make more things to buy!
I am not an economic genius. But for all the rhetoric about the stimulus money going to China or Europe, it certainly has had its good points, too. "Cash for Clunkers" put thousands of new cars on the US highways, didn't it? It's ideas like that one that need to happen; simple, straight forward economic assistance. For example:
1. Hire, train, and support more fire fighters, police, and teachers all over the nation. We are always short of these heroes, and helping fill Police Academies or Teachers' Colleges would INSTANTLY create a huge middle-class.
2. Give tax breaks to US companies that invest in making things locally. If you are a Nike or Abercrombie or GE that maintains a plant in the US instead of in China, Bangaladesh, or India, we should help your company stay in business IN the USA.
3. Conversely, set up more taxes or fines (tariffs?) for companies that sell their businesses abroad. No more magazines printed in Canada! Companies out-source to other countries now because it's cheaper. If it was not cheaper, and it was made more of a social stigma, wouldn't more companies "come back" to the US? Shouldn't they?
4. Straight-out tariffs on things made in powerhouses like China or India. You go to Wal-Mart to live cheaper, but your hard-earned money is going to help support Pei Ming, not John Smith. "Buy American" should be an option, not a fantasy. Right now it's no longer a level playing field. We need to make it fair again.
5. Put people to work the same way The New Deal did: have them build things! Give tax breaks or "stimulus" money to neighborhoods that need bridges, roads, and other infrastructures built. Keep it public so shady politicians can not skim off the top. For example, announce that the Feds are giving $10 million to the state of Ohio, to divy up between all of our counties. Towns with worse unemployment would get their roads fixed, or their people "drafted" to fix other towns' roads. There are plenty of examples of "urban blight" as well as "rural improvements" that could be done in the name of national emergency.
6. Hire people to run the agencies to give out this money! Instead of throwing millions of dollars at research grants or "stimulus" packages, get a crew of accountants to take the money, invest it, pay out of the interest, and keep a staff at these agencies to distribute these responsibilities. Make the only requirement that the pay is minimum wage and see how many local people sign up to help care for their surroundings.
7. Tie unemployment benefits with actual work of some kind. Unemployment insurance (Welfare) was originally considered as a tempory fix for people momentarily out of work. Now it has become a crutch for millions of Americans. Well, I am not suggesting taking it away, but how about if we link it to mandatory "volunteerism"? In order to receive your food stamps, you have to "donate" a certain amount of time every week to not-for-profit daycare centers or food banks or senior citizen homes, getting a check at the end of the week just like everybody else who works. No more staying at home watching TV all day: earn your support and be an able-bodied member of society at the same time.
There! Seven ideas I came up to help the economy without even really trying. Imagine what professional "thinkers" could come up with if they were seriously trying to find solutions! Let's get rid of silly partisan bickering and work together to fix the problem.
Of course, the federal government is spending money they don't have. I know that is a problem. On the other hand, if everyone worked together to support a national recovery, I have no doubt the budget would balance itself out in due time. If my ideas above were put into practice as if the agencies were running a business, I think eventually they would turn a profit, which would be piped back into the system. China doesn't want us to be in a sound financial situation, people. We need to work together to get ourselves out of this mess. God helps those who help themselves.
And, oh yeah, to answer President Reagan's question asked earlier: I have gotten a promotion AND a raise since 2009, so I actually *am* better off than I was four years ago. I understand how many people out there are NOT, but luckily, my circle of friends and family have been mostly been able to survive without losing their jobs.
(Unemployment statistics were from US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dow Jones Index information was from INDEXDJX:DJI on Gooogle.)
That's all for this week.....!
Comments are welcome, but remember the rules:
1. No craziness. If you honestly believe that President Obama was born in Kenya and is trying to turn this country into a socialist dictatorship, or that President GW Bush allowed the 9-11 attacks in order to invade Iraq, you need to leave this site. Immediately. There are plenty of other fantasy sites you can visit. You are not welcome here. I am not kidding.
2. No rudeness. Recently I have had incidents where I or others have written things like, "It is stupid to think that" and "Only fools believe that...." If you don't want to have a meaningful conversation, don't join in. I am not kidding about this, either. However, often we get flustered or excited or caught up in a moment. I do, too. My strong suggestion is to re-read what you write before you post it. Remember, you're not going to win any friends by calling them stupid.
3. No hyperbole. It turns out that Attorney General John Ashcroft wasn't a Nazi goose-stepper and I'm relatively sure that no one in the current administration is, either. Also, we aren't about to lose the Second Amendment rights or Freedom of Religion. Talking about how to manage gun control laws or whether we should make all companies offer birth control in their health insurance plans is not necessarily an open invitation to Paranoia Land.