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Opinion

Opinion

Lawmakers must act, not posture

August 10, 2011

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As I write this column early on Monday morning the debt ceiling crisis has ended, but the signs that the so-called economic “recovery” has stalled, if not died, are everywhere. Wall Street is again showing signs of long-term weakness as the Dow plunges. Gold has topped $1,700 per ounce, the Eurodollar situation continues to be problematic and China, as one of America’s largest creditors has begun to use harsh rhetoric to tell us to get our economic house in order. And, of course, Standard & Poor’s — as well as a Chinese credit rating agency — has for the first time since 1917 downgraded its rating of U.S. creditworthiness.

As all of this goes on, our so-called representatives in Congress and the state legislature continue to dither over social issues and partisan politics and seem utterly unable to grasp that our country is in very serious financial trouble, trouble that just keeps getting worse rather than better.

When the tea party movement first arose I had some hope that they might actually develop into a true populist party one that was concerned with serious governmental reform and restoring a measure of sanity to a political system that has become increasingly dysfunctional. But, as I have written elsewhere, I have lost faith in that happening and it seems that the tea party has simply become focused on negatives: preventing the passage of new taxes and reduction of long-term debt.

These are admirable goals, but they need to be accompanied by a positive program designed to restore prosperity and increase job creation in the United States. I have not seen such proposals — at least not well-reasoned proposals designed to achieve these goals. I don’t think that we can simply assume that tax reduction and tax rate cuts will automatically solve our economic problems. These are far too important to leave either to political ideology or questionable economic theories.

In my opinion, Congress and state legislatures need to stop their bickering and their posturing and start making serious efforts at understanding our economic woes. We don’t need ideological arguments; we need serious, unbiased economic and historical analysis performed in a nonpartisan manner. I have no idea what such analysis will produce nor do I think it will necessarily support any particular partisan or ideological argument. But I think that it might just give us a chance to dig ourselves out of the economic hole we are in.

I think, perhaps, the best analogy I can come up with is that of a seriously ill person. I would assume that such a person will want the best doctor, that is the doctor with the best training and skills to enable him to save the patient’s life. When I’m ill, I don’t ask doctors what politics or religion they believe in. I don’t ask them for a philosophical disquisition on medical science, nor do I ask them whether they are pro-choice or pro-life. What I ask is what they think they can do to help me and upon what basis they think they can save my life. I may worry about other things after I’m cured, but when I’m sick, I just care about getting better.

It seems to me that the United States is economically a very sick nation and we need to be cured. We don’t need theory; we need practical, achievable, rational solutions. If the president and the Democrats, the Republicans, and the tea party cannot produce such a cure, then it’s time for the nation to find someone who can.

Mike Hoeflich, a professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.

Comments

JustNoticed 2 years, 8 months ago

Eat the Rich. Er, I mean, Eat the Job Creators.

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jayhawxrok 2 years, 8 months ago

A balanced approach is the only one that will work, sadly the tea party is decided unbalanced, almost unhinged.

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jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

The fix is a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases, combined with healthy growth of the GDP.

Only part of these can be accomplished by the government - much of the cure involves the activity of the private sector.

Right now, they're maintaining record high profits by laying people off, and sitting on large sums of reserve cash, which doesn't help at all.

Business hiring/investment combined with consumer spending is the only way for the economy to grow, and of course, if people don't have jobs, they don't have much money to spend.

Unfortunately, it's counter-intuitive - when the economy is doing badly, the natural tendency is to constrict rather than expand - the problem is it becomes a negative downward spiral - as people are laid off or underemployed they spend less, and businesses lay off more people, etc.

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hoeflich 2 years, 8 months ago

I believe that my use of the phrase "long-term debt reduction" incorporates the spending cuts you mention. This could not be achieved solely through revenue enhancements.

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 8 months ago

dowser: Good point; you left out the biggest middle class plum, deductions for home mortgages. When will this go away or be limited?

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Peter Macfarlane 2 years, 8 months ago

Actually, we tax at just about the lowest rate of any industrialized nation. We all like our entitlements and it's time we realized that you cannot get something for nothing.

Solomon: You probably benefit from the so-called entitlement culture without realizing it. Ever hear of Social Security, Medicare, worker's compensation, USDA farm subsidies, or many other so-called entitlement programs?

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Eybea Opiner 2 years, 8 months ago

Three times the author mentions or implies tax increases. Not once does he mention spending cuts. This is the problem. Too many simply accept the premise that whatever the government spends is necessary and justified, and simply don't question the entire "entitlement" culture that prevails in the U.S. today.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

"we need serious, unbiased economic and historical analysis performed in a nonpartisan manner."

With the Republicans having been completely taken over by a "know-nothing" mindset, and both parties at the national level taking their marching orders from Wall Street, don't hold your breath.

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