What Should the Federal Government Do to Help the Economy?
I am angry, and it is because of the recent series of political debates. I desire to be an informed citizen, and the idea of a spirited debate amongst candidates for elected office is something I should heartily endorse. But the reality of the debates this time around was far different than I wanted. None of the candidates I watched this year, whether they were running for President, Vice President, or Senator, seemed interested in answering questions directly or adhering to the facts. They all appeared eager to take credit, place blame, or make promises, but none seemed the least bit interested in telling the truth.
To be fair, many of the reasons for this are because of the electorate. When voters were given the opportunity to query the candidates directly, many times the questions that were asked were inane. "What are you going to do to get me a job?" or "What are you going to do about the price of gasoline?" are not appropriate questions for elected officials. Those are questions for the mirror. Sadly, most candidates will attempt to convince the voters that they actually do have answers for these questions.
But there are a few things that our elected officials should do immediately in an effort to help the US economy. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of US national economic policy should be one thing and one thing only: long-term productivity growth. We may think that we want unlimited healthcare, copious retirement benefits, and free entertainment for our citizens, but without sustained productivity growth in our economy over the long term we will not be able to afford any of these things. So every law and every policy and every regulation at the federal level should be put through a simple screen, "Will this make us more productive in the long run?"
To achieve this goal the President and Congress should immediately simplify the federal tax code and lower corporate tax rates. This includes eliminating loopholes and deductions, and harmonizing the taxation of foreign income so that it gets taxed at competitive rates. Because we currently have such a gaping budget deficit and massive national debt, we cannot afford to lower the amount of revenues flowing into Washington. But we can broaden the tax base and simplify the process of paying taxes. This will allow all of us, citizens and elected officials alike, to understand better how much we are paying and why we are paying it. We cannot possibly hope to solve a problem that we do not understand, and these efforts to simplify the tax code are the first steps toward a greater level of understanding.
Once we have a better handle on the how's and why's and where’s of where our money is going, we can then make better choices about investing it. Make no mistake about it--there are many things in which we can wisely choose to invest our government's resources that will make us much more competitive in the long run. These might include infrastructure projects that support transportation, communication and energy generation and transmission.
Education is also something we all need to be more competitive, and so is basic research. We must remain diligent and prepared with our national defense. Most importantly, we all need clean air, freshwater, and reliable sources of nutritious food, and we should never compromise the quality and safety of these most precious of resources. So as you can see, there are many tasks for which we need a strong and effective federal government. But I guess our biggest problem right at the moment is finding some strong and effective candidates and enough informed citizens to vote for them.