"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

As economy tanks, leadership runs on empty

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 1
Publish Date: 
Thu, 06/09/2011

Vice President Hubert Humphrey said, “To err is human, to blame it on someone else is politics.” As predictable as the sunrise, when gasoline prices increase, politicians wax indignant, cast blame and threaten U.S. oil companies with increased taxes and investigations into market manipulation.

Gasoline prices have accelerated past $4 per gallon, so denouncing and punishing oil companies for the 35 percent annual increase may feel cathartic. It's instantly gratifying to blame high prices on those who charge them, rather than on those who cause them, especially since higher gas prices disproportionately hurt the poor, dampen consumer spending and weaken the U.S. economy.

However, I urge you to Think Again. The truth is that U.S. oil companies are no more to blame for high gas prices than Zale's is to blame for high gold prices. Americans have the right to know the truth, and our elected leaders must speak the truth — that a weak dollar and supply-and-demand disequilibrium in the global oil markets are principally responsible for increasing gasoline prices.

Instead, lawmakers explain economic misfortune as the consequence not of bad policies, but of evildoers gaming the system, while they identify a group rich and unpopular enough to look the part. Politicians are like magician David Copperfield. They expertly distract with one hand so we don't notice what the other is doing. They've scored political points by accusing “Big Oil” of “price gouging,” reaping “windfall profits,” and not paying their “fair share” of taxes.

However popular, this narrative has no basis in fact or economic logic. With an effective income-tax rate of 43 percent (from 2006-2010), U.S. oil companies were actually the most heavily taxed of all Fortune 500 companies (whose effective tax rates averaged 27 percent). Compare that to the rates paid by GE (9 percent), Pfizer (15 percent), and both Verizon and Coca Cola (21 percent), and the argument that major oil companies are under-taxed evaporates.

If Big Oil's profits were exorbitant, they'd earn more than other U.S. companies, right? In fact, 2010 U.S. oil industry profits per dollar of sales were six cents compared to nine cents for manufacturing companies, 17 cents for computers and 22 cents for beverage and tobacco. Furthermore, U.S. oil majors can't set prices because they only hold a combined 3 percent of the world's reserves. Not surprisingly, the oil industry's return on investment has often lagged the average return for the S&P since 1982.

If policy-makers were responsible, they would stop hunting for villains and focus instead on securing America's fiscal and debt situation to strengthen the dollar. When each dollar buys more oil, gas prices will decline. They would also acknowledge that even as our energy sector necessarily diversifies, oil will continue to be a key element of our national energy portfolio for many decades.

Why spend billions on foreign oil when we could invest those dollars domestically? With the oil-rich Mideast in turmoil and the U.S. importing 63 percent of our oil, lawmakers must re-examine policies that severely restrict access to American oil bounties along the Atlantic coastline, the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaskan tundra.

Yes, there are real though localized risks inherent in drilling. However, just as the tragic loss of Apollo 1 served as a valuable lesson to NASA for subsequent space missions, so too must last-year's Gulf oil spill aid us in the safe and productive development of our energy resources. Tapping reserves kept off-limits by Congress would mean significant economic growth, potentially trillions in tax revenue, a million new energy-related jobs, increased energy security and lower U.S. energy prices.

These benefits are magnified with new discoveries of shale gas, and breakthroughs in extraction technology, which have massively increased natural gas reserves while lowering the cost of production. Pulitzer-prize winning energy expert Daniel Yergin believes these cheap and vast natural gas reserves have the potential to make the U.S. a net exporter of natural gas while fueling our vehicles and powering our utilities.

Michael Lind (no global-warming denier) wrote a surprising essay in the liberal journal Salon titled, “Everything You've Heard About Fossil Fuels May Be Wrong.” He credits the natural gas boom in saying, “It appears that there may be enough accessible hydrocarbons to power industrial civilization for centuries, if not millennia.” Lind argues that “without massive, permanent government subsidies ... wind and solar power may never be able to compete. For that reason, some Greens hope to shut down shale gas.”

Clearly the demonizing of Big Oil (and probably gas) will linger. With the economic and security stakes so high, next time a politician claims we'd feel less pain at the pump if Big Oil felt more pain on April 15, advise him to Think Again. Otherwise, he'll feel pain on another important date — in November 2012!

That's how to end the political blame-game.


Road to Hell paved with irony and big government

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 0
Publish Date: 
Thu, 06/23/2011

Unlike Jack Nicholson's mother, who never saw the irony in calling Jack a “son of a bitch,” I'm hoping you'll appreciate another delicious irony. In a keynote speech at an international economic forum, a major political leader blamed the state's heavy role in the economy for stagnation. Government, he said, should “protect the choice and property of those who willingly risk their money and reputation.”

If you're guessing the critiqued policies are in Greece, Ireland or the United States, Think Again. In fact the speaker was President Medvedev of Russia, the country whose government excesses inflicted misery and deprivation on its people.

It is poetic irony, then, to hear Medvedev wax Jeffersonian while throwing overboard the Russian autocrats who've concentrated power in the Kremlin. Medvedev knows that “the proposition that the government is always right is manifested either in corruption or benefits to ‘preferred' companies.” Medvedev says, “The Russian economy ought to be dominated by private businesses and private investors.”

That is the definition of “seeing the light!”

As astonishing is the rejection of America's founding principles of limited government and free-enterprise by politicians who've glommed onto a micro-managed government-approved “capitalism.” I'm not claiming the U.S. has morphed into Russia, only a shared lesson. Government officials are too easily captured by special interests, often ones they should be regulating and on which they lavish taxpayer-financed favors. Therefore, trusting government officials to influence the economy is mistaken and dangerous.

The ironic truth is that governmental policies to promote home ownership precipitated the financial crisis by pushing suicidal loans onto low-income people and stimulating taxpayer-backed demand for the bad loans. As a result, the government perverted the free-enterprise system and subverted everyone's economic interest, sticking taxpayers with massive losses, saddling homeowners with unfair mortgages and damaging credit markets. More ironically, we've allowed government officials to deny responsibility, blame others and even benefit personally — sounds like Russia!

Economists say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but seeming to give free lunches elects politicians who claim they can do miraculous things like create economic growth and jobs. The reality is, despite economic models showing government could create wealth by spending (“investing”, in politician-speak), the models don't reflect the complexity of a dynamic market economy where millions of decisions are made simultaneously. While government can invest at the margins in research and activities that spin off useful technologies, spending incurs an opportunity cost as taxation, borrowing and mandates undermine businesses' desire to hire and invest.

Haven't we learned the Great Depression lessons when New Deal policies initially committed these mistakes, thus prolonging economic despair? In 1939, FDR's Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau said, “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work … After eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … and an enormous debt to boot!”

Since 2008, we've spent almost $2 trillion on stimulus and recovery programs. We've enacted a too-big-to-fail policy, bailing out bankrupt banks and car companies, making taxpayers liable for reckless decision-making while penalizing disadvantaged smaller competitors who don't enjoy government backing. Cash for clunkers and the first-time homebuyers tax credit generated no incremental demand. Hundreds of new complex regulations and hidden taxes lurk in financial reform and health-care legislation with critical details left to regulators. Employers worry that hiring implies accepting costs they can't control or predict. Not surprisingly, American businesses are reluctant to invest their $2 trillion cash horde.

As Karl Marx said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” After all this government “goodwill,” unemployment exceeds 9 percent (despite promises the rate wouldn't top 8 percent by now), economic growth is anemic, and the misery index (unemployment plus inflation rates) is at a 28-year high. Federal spending is at an unsustainable 25 percent of GDP, up from a 60-year 18 percent average, as we borrow 42 cents out of every dollar spent. With $14.3 trillion in federal debt, Americans brace for higher interest rates as creditors doubt America's ability to repay.

The role of government is not to create jobs but to facilitate an environment hospitable to the private investment that drives innovation and, ultimately, job growth. America must revert to the values that made us the most prosperous country in history — smaller government, sensible though limited regulations, a globally competitive tax burden, entrepreneurialism, equality of opportunity, an exceptional educational system, respect for private property, and individual responsibility.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen wrote, “the gap between Americans who want to govern themselves and politicians who want to rule over them may be as big today as the gap between the colonies and England during the eighteenth century.” Americans don't want to be governed from the left, the right or the center; they want to govern themselves.

There's nothing ironic about that.

Class warfare divisive and un-American

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 0
Publish Date: 
Thu, 08/04/2011


In a Russian joke, there are two friendly farmers, Boris and Ivan. Both are prosperous, though Boris owns chickens and Ivan doesn't. When a genie offers Ivan anything he desires, he ponders his wish and orders, “Kill Boris' chickens!”

As Americans imbued with entrepreneurial spirit, a tradition of social mobility, and a sense of fairness and morality, we're bemused by this joke. Why didn't Ivan aspire to own chickens himself, or cows? Doesn't Ivan realize he's hurting everyone's standard of living by depriving everybody of eggs and chicken meat? Why deny opportunity to shopkeepers, butchers and restaurants — and all their employees?

By living in a zero-sum world where one can only profit at the expense of others, Ivan can't comprehend (as Americans do) that a neighbor's prosperity can enhance our lives, raise our standard of living and create economic opportunities for more people. Ingenious billionaires who developed the automobile, laptop, Facebook and iPhone were rewarded because they improved society's standard of living, not by clawing a fortune out of society's guts.

If you believe this “beggar-thy-neighbor” mentality doesn't exist in the U.S., Think Again. Economic distress creates fertile ground for “the politics of envy” allowing opportunistic politicians to distract us from real problems by accusing wealthier Americans of not paying their “fair share” and by bashing selected (poll-tested) industries. However, the “soak-the-rich” narrative is dangerously divisive, socially corrosive, economically detrimental — and untrue.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development studied 24 economies and concluded “Taxation is most progressively distributed in the United States.” Here, the wealthiest 10 percent (individuals and small businesses) making more than $92,400 per year pay three-quarters of the nation's income taxes, while half of Americans pay none and nearly 70 percent receive more government benefits than they've paid in.

Social justice doesn't require such a progressive system, though it allows society to express compassion for its neediest. The question is: At what point does forced redistribution of income as a means of social policy destroy individual initiative, becoming economically detrimental and socially unjust to all strata of society?

Given our economic straits, we're there. According to IRS data and based on current government spending levels, even if the government instituted a 100 percent tax on both corporate profits and incomes above $250,000 per year, it would only yield enough revenue to run the government for six months. That's because government spending has swollen to 24 percent of GDP from 18 percent in 2000.

Despite these facts, politicians promote resentment to create sympathetic voting blocks, pointing to widening income gaps between rich and poor. However, Americans don't begrudge our neighbor's success; we crave it, relying on social mobility to achieve it. While acknowledging the need for a sturdy social safety net, we know instinctively what IRS data proves — the vast majority of “the poor” do not remain poor in America.

Like an elevator, Americans ride the income ladder, from one statistical category to another. Three-quarters of Americans whose incomes were in the bottom quintile in 1975 were also in the top 40 percent during the next 16 years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. IRS data shows that incomes of taxpayers in the bottom quintile in 1991 rose 91 percent by 2005, compared to those in the top quintile whose incomes rose only 10 percent — those in the top 5 percent actually declined by 26 percent. So much for the “rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

Though tax-rates (and loopholes) influence economic behavior, government revenues correlate more with economic growth. One hundred years of IRS data show the wealthy avoided higher tax-rates and supplied less tax revenue when marginal rates were higher. Irrespective of marginal rates (which have ranged between 92-28 percent since 1952) government revenues historically hovered around 18 percent of GDP. Additionally, when rates were lower, GDP growth was higher.

Therefore, America's goal should be to generate economic growth to create more jobs, meaning more taxpayers and more government revenues to pay off our debt. This requires fiscal discipline and comprehensive tax-reform including the elimination of tax loopholes and subsidies for the politically favored, and globally competitive tax-rates. Australia, Canada and Sweden just instituted similar measures resulting in material economic improvements. Why can't America?

Without such measures, the dirty little secret is that the money to pay for our bloated government (and $14.3 trillion in debt) must also come from the middle-class and future generations. That's not only an economic problem, it's a moral one when those without a voice are deprived of economic opportunity.

Abraham Lincoln encapsulated America's notion of fairness saying, “That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but ... build one for himself.”

Those who practice class warfare (and Ivan) should Think Again.

Slouching toward Europe: US needs rehab

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 1
Publish Date: 
Thu, 09/01/2011

“They tried to make me go to rehab but I said no, no, no,” British singer-sensation Amy Winehouse sang before joining Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in the “Dead at 27” Club. Seeing the media atwitter over the “Euro Crisis” makes me think Winehouse's unfortunate demise is a metaphor for what ails Europe.

Winehouse thought she didn't need treatment; similarly the new head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Largarde, fears “policy makers do not have the conviction” to “go to rehab” at this “dangerous new phase of the debt crisis.” Yet with such high stakes, European politicians must Think Again, as should Americans whose aim is to “Europeanize” America.

Like Winehouse, the eurozone (comprising 17 out of 27 European Union countries now sharing a common currency and mutual economic guarantees) is severely depressed, both economically and socially. It suffers from out-of-control addictions to big government and borrowing, has existential doubts about whether so many dissimilar countries share enough interests to fit into an economic straitjacket, and lacks the political will to address its dysfunction. More ominously, unlike the suicidal Winehouse, Europe's financial crisis threatens to pull down others like a nuclear-armed suicide bomber.

Trend-spotting soothsayers who used to boast that the Eurozone would “end American supremacy” and “run the 21st century” now seem delusional. EU policies actually impede economic growth and vitality, rendering Europe less competitive.

In the second quarter, the eurozone grew 0.7 percent, while Germany (Europe's engine) grew only 0.5 percent. Plunging business and consumer confidence further undermine growth prospects for a region desperate to ease debt burdens in the “PIIGS” countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain). However, despite talk to control spending and balance budgets (mostly through tax increases), nobody in Europe has a genuine growth agenda.

It's hard for Europe to grow when nearly half of Europeans are officially “dependents” and only 64 percent of working-age citizens work. Even worse, Europeans aren't having babies (European fertility rates are one-third lower than both the replacement rate and the U.S. rate), so the ratio of European workers to retirees is expected to collapse from 7-to-1 in 1960 to one-to-one by 2040. With so many 30-year-old students and 50-year-old retirees, it's no wonder the European welfare state is running out of other people's money — because it has run out of people, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher.

Furthermore, European welfare states not only use taxpayers' money to give “free” benefits to particular groups, they require employers do the same. Not surprisingly, faced with higher labor costs, employers hire fewer workers in Europe.

The New York Times captured the crux of the crisis: Because Europeans “translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net … governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.” Consequently, ballooning unemployment, stagnant economies, catastrophic debt and demographic collapse threaten the European economic model.

Meanwhile, European politicians take piecemeal steps to respond to bond markets and political pressures from those who don't want to bail out their neighbors' excesses. Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer argued, “You can't have a pension at 67 here and 55 in Greece.” Luckily, his remarks weren't made in Greece, where protesters defending their “rights” killed innocents.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, whose country joined the EU but did not adopt the Euro, despairs that Europe's real problem is that Europeans don't value economic freedom. Rather, they “prefer leisure to work, security to risk-taking, paternalism to free markets, group entitlements to individualism and don't understand that their current behavior undermines the very institutions that made  past successes possible.”

This is the existential question: When the social institutions (family, vocation, community and faith) that drive human productivity and satisfaction become less vital, from what will life's purpose and meaning come? Not government security. A 2001 University of Michigan study (among others) showed that public-support recipients are twice as likely to feel hopeless or worthless.

It's not too late for America: We appreciate that work, parenting and community engagement, while often challenging, give our lives meaning, accomplishment, satisfaction, a sense of control and pride — necessary elements for happiness.

In 2005, after pancreatic cancer treatment, college dropout Steve Jobs addressed Stanford graduates offering advice that reflects this quintessentially American credo about work and happiness. He told them to stay hungry and to find and follow their passions because “the only way to be truly satisfied in life is to do great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Despite failing health, Jobs is happy (as are Apple customers, employees and investors) having created the world's most innovative and valuable company, spawning industries in his wake.

If rehab could cure Jobs' illness, he would go. As America slouches toward Europe, we should Think Again and go, too.

Green Dream: Red Nightmare for Taxpayers

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 0
Publish Date: 
Thu, 09/15/2011


Winston Churchill famously quipped, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” What could be more beautiful, never mind seductive, than the strategy to promote renewable energies and a “green economy,” heralded as cure-alls for America's greatest challenges, most particularly economic stagnation?

But a funny thing happened on the way to green utopia. High-paying, clean-tech jobs were a cornerstone of the 2009 stimulus bill, which appropriated $80 billion to promote the “green economy.” Yet, instead of putting us on the green-brick road to recovery, we've learned that subsidizing industry merely results in red — lost jobs, squandered taxpayer resources, scandalous bankruptcies and diminished prosperity. “Green” proponents whose policies produced these shameful outcomes should be red-faced and prepared to Think Again.

With nearly one in six Americans living in poverty — the largest total since tracking began in 1959 (according to newly released Census data), and persistently high unemployment, Americans desperately want to believe the green-jobs predictions of advocates like Van Jones, who wrote “The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems.”

Yet the reality is that these lofty job creation projections are wrong, as detailed in last month's New York Times story “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.” The Times concluded, ”such numbers are a pipe dream” because, as they've previously reported, wind power costs 50 percent more than conventional power, and solar-generated electricity costs up to three times more than wind power. Shifting resources toward less-efficient purposes inevitably results in less prosperity — fewer jobs at lower pay.

Furthermore, in order to compete, renewable energy sources require costly government subsidies, price floors or purchase mandates. Consequently, green policies actually increase energy prices, undermine the economy, destroy jobs and hurt consumers, especially the poorest whose family budgets are consumed by escalating costs for everything. Exacerbating things further, energy prices increase when potential suppliers and energy entrepreneurs redirect scarce capital away from government-manipulated markets.

For these reasons, renewable energies produce only 3 percent of U.S. electricity and remain a fledgling global industry, despite having enjoyed enormous government support in the U.S., Europe and China. Given the industry's small size and inherent unviability, allowing China to subsidize production to remain the lower-cost manufacturer is logical and prudent.

The question remains: Why didn't we examine the troubling European experience with the green-economy strategy before launching our own? After a decade of experimentation and faced with job losses, higher energy prices, economic stagnation and corruption, European governments have cut their green funding. Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute summarizes the findings of research studies conducted across Europe: For every green job created, green programs destroyed 2.2 jobs in Spain and 3.7 jobs in the U.K., while the capital needed for one green job in Italy could create almost five jobs in the general economy. Wind and solar power have raised energy prices by 7.5 percent in Germany, and caused Denmark to have the highest electricity prices in Europe.

Perhaps U.S. policymakers ignored the European experience because they wanted the power and resources to pick winners and losers in the energy sector and to dispense favors to political patrons. But when government presses its massive thumb on the market scale, businesses have huge incentives to win favors through lobbying and campaign contributions. This is not only economically damaging, it's the definition of crony capitalism, the destructive consequences of which were exposed last month by the bankruptcies of three politically connected U.S. solar companies — Solyndra of California, Evergreen Solar of Massachusetts and SpectraWatt of New York. All were showcases for the green-jobs strategy, so their demise has eliminated thousands of these jobs.

Solyndra, whose major shareholder is a significant political donor, was the first clean-tech company to receive a loan-guarantee following passage of the stimulus bill, even though the Energy Department credit committee had already unanimously rejected the loan in early January 2009. ABC News reported Tuesday that Solyndra is under criminal investigation because newly uncovered emails show that they might have bypassed normal vetting procedures in obtaining their loan approval, despite being deemed a high risk.

Even if corruption wasn't a factor, the Solyndra debacle demonstrates the ineptitude of government officials when speculating with other people's money — they pale in comparison to more experienced investors who risk their own money.

So after examining the results, it's that clear green policies haven't made us happier, healthier and richer. Instead, they've lowered living standards globally and weakened the technological progress that market forces usually deliver, distracting us from finding optimal solutions to the economic and environmental challenges we face.

Like the proverbial vampire who fears daylight, optimal solutions are the last thing “green energy” proponents want to see. Given the economic bloodletting, American policymakers must Think Again and drive a stake through the vampire's green heart.

Governing-class warriors misinform and demoralize

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 1
Publish Date: 
Thu, 10/27/2011


Like a snuff video, footage of Moammar Gadhafi's final moments saturated our screens last week. Despite revulsion for Libya's depraved and ruthless despot, I cringed at the ingloriousness of a once-powerful man holed up in a filthy drainage pipe begging for mercy. The cowardly dictator screamed “don't shoot” and ironically asked the rebels if they knew right from wrong, before a bullet to the temple ended his 42-year reign.

As thousands filed past his corpse wearing masks to avoid the stench of death, I wondered why Gadhafi hadn't fled with his $200 billion stash. Then again, “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” which is why tyrants like Hitler, Hussein and Gadhafi cling to authority — because they can. Never mind the devastation they leave in their wake.

In democracies, power is no less an aphrodisiac, though acquiring it requires winning votes, not gun battles. Too often, a politician's success depends on what he can get voters to believe, whether or not it bears any resemblance to reality. By engaging in negativity and demagoguery, either through false narratives or by denigrating opponents, politicians cause destructive wakes, including a misinformed and demoralized electorate.

Governing elites who exploit the politics of division to pick winners and losers and to determine our destinies are “governing-class warriors.” When such unscrupulous tactics are deployed, Americans must Think Again — something politicians hope we never do.

Simply follow the trend lines in Michele Bachman and Rick Perry's poll numbers after employing shameless demagoguery. When Bachman raised previously discredited fears about vaccinations while attacking Perry for mandating that girls get HPV inoculations, she undermined her credibility. Similarly, Perry damaged his standing when counter-punching Mitt Romney on illegal immigration, resurrecting the already scrutinized 2006 story about Romney's lawn service employing illegals.

Most unseemly is demagoguery that transcends mere political one-upmanship, transforming opponents into the moral equivalent of wife-beaters and worse. Consider former presidential contender Howard Dean's character assassination: “In contradistinction to Republicans, Democrats don't want children to go to bed hungry at night.” Or Congressman Andre Carson's smear that “some of them in Congress right now of this tea party movement would love to see you and me ... hanging on a tree.”

It packs a punch, especially considering the ease with which smears take root and propagate, as when Piers Morgan blithely asked Herman Cain, “You know there are elements in the tea party who are racist; I don't think it's a trade secret. How do you deal with that as a black man?”

Cain's response was clarifying, and disinfecting: “My experience has been, there is no more a racist element in the tea party than there is in the general population. I have spoken at hundreds of them and they're not racist. To think so, you must never have been.” No wonder Cain is topping the polls. Though the least likely to emerge, Cain's solutions-orientation and optimism appeal to voters who want to be persuaded by can-do leaders, not alienated by negativity.

Americans crave competent leadership as new polls show a sweeping lack of faith in what we've got: CBS/NYT finds 89 percent don't trust the government to do what is right, while The Hill shows 69 percent of voters believe America is in decline.

Americans' pessimism is understandable. Having suffered a historic U.S. credit downgrade with more possible, the powerful Supercommittee is reportedly struggling to agree on $1.2 trillion (only 3 percent) of deficit cuts over a 10-year period. Americans will recoil at their failure's fall-out, especially if leaders resort to the politics of division to evade responsibility and to advance narrow political interests.

Business leaders are already recoiling as entrepreneurs like Steve Wynn, Bernie Marcus, Mort Zuckerman and Steve Jobs have articulated concerns that Washington is a massive wet blanket to the economy and job creation. We believe them because we know they are living it.

When Wynn conveyed his concerns to good friend Harry Reid, Reid hung up on him. Reid disagrees with Wynn saying this week, “It's very clear that private-sector jobs are doing just fine. It's public-sector jobs where we've lost huge numbers.” Wynn no longer speaks to Congresswoman Shelly Berkley, now a Senate candidate. He recounts her shameful admission: “Steve, I know Obamacare is terrible. My husband is a doctor and he hates it too. But if I don't vote for it, Pelosi will punish me.”

Wynn, whose candor and moral clarity defies his Las Vegas roots, pleads “if any businessman or working person doesn't understand that this is a tipping point in American history, then I'm afraid we're going to get what we deserve.”

Unlike Libya, America's exceptional values and culture of opportunity position us well. We just need governing-class warriors to Think Again — Americans want to be persuaded to affirm our leaders, not so alienated that we reject them all.

America’s Tebows await their start

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 1
Publish Date: 
Tue, 12/13/2011

Back in September when President Obama was arguing for his third stimulus, he pronounced America soft and said we lacked a competitive edge. At the same time, the NFL cognoscenti were declaring Tim Tebow an NFL bust despite being a first-round draft pick. Remarkably, Tim Tebow and the U.S. economy are showing signs of resurgence.

The news that the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 9.0 to 8.6 percent in November (though due largely to job seekers exiting the market) is as surprising as Tebow’s 7-1 record since becoming the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Tebow’s late-fourth-quarter magic and five come-from-behind victories (three in overtime) have rocketed the Broncos from worst to first in their division, earning Tebow the confidence of coaches and teammates, and the adoration of fans.

If only America’s private-sector “quarterbacks” were liberated to call their own plays and scramble like an unleashed Tebow, America could win the economic equivalent of the Super Bowl — GDP growth of 4.5 percent and unemployment of 6 percent.

If politicians were as wise as Tebow’s coach, they’d formulate strategies to get business owners off the sidelines. They could start by reducing excessive regulations that, according to the Small Business Administration, cost the economy $1.75 trillion in 2008, more than individual and corporate income taxes combined — and that’s more than 11,000 regulations ago. In stronger economies, businesses are better equipped to tackle runaway regulators, who often view them as the opponent. Now, the 22.9 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or too discouraged to look for employment are consigned to the injured reserve list.

As politicians play political football with our fate, they demonstrate greater concern for the next election than for the next generation. If politicians were truly interested in growing the economy, creating jobs and paying off the national debt, they wouldn’t propose micro-measures like the temporary extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut. While hardworking taxpayers welcome savings, this temporary cut is minimally pro-growth and further erodes Social Security’s solvency. Furthermore, offering current benefits financed by faux spending cuts or never-to-materialize revenues is the very accounting gimmickry that has undermined America’s fiscal stability and credit worthiness. How many Americans know that the so-called “Budget Control Act of 2011” that raised the debt ceiling actually increases spending by $830 billion over current expenditures?

We know that to recover fiscal stability we must get taxpaying Americans back in the game. Six percent unemployment by 2014 requires an additional 14 million jobs, or 400,000 each month (compared with the 120,000 added last month). This implies an annual growth rate not seen since 1999 and triple this year’s 1.5 percent.

Meanwhile, like the Broncos’ fans after the team’s dismal 1-5 start, Americans lack confidence. A recent Rasmussen poll shows that only 18 percent of Americans believe today’s children will be better off than their parents, perhaps because 68 percent of Americans believe government and big business work together against their interests.

This is where the tea party meets Occupy Wall Street — at the intersection of their complaint that the economic game’s officiating is unfair, as though a touchdown counts for more points if you’re from the favored team. Both movements want to reform a system that allows special interests to lobby for politicians to have more power to manage the economy, thus enabling politicians to enact favorable laws and regulations or allocate money for these special interests. When special corporate interests keep profits but share losses with hapless taxpayers, those without political connections suffer unfair competition. The result is a crisis of legitimacy that corrodes social trust, undermines effort and hurts our most vulnerable.

The most poorly officiated segment of our economy is the energy sector. It should be national policy to promote affordable energy, which is the lifeblood of any vibrant economy. But after 25 years of backward energy policies, Americans are unaware that we have more recoverable oil than the entire world has used in 150 years and the world’s largest holding of natural gas, oil and coal resources, according to last week’s Institute for Energy Research report. Allowing development of American resources would lower prices throughout the economy and promote energy independence, job creation and American competitiveness. It also would generate billions in tax revenues — considerably more than an anti-growth surtax on “millionaires and billionaires.”

If job creation and deficit reduction were really policymakers’ top priorities, they’d study North Dakota, where in 2011 the energy boom generated 20,000 well-paying jobs, a $1 billion budget surplus and America’s best unemployment (3.5 percent) and growth (7.1 percent) rates.

Throughout America’s history, our private-sector quarterbacks have demonstrated the tenacity, skill, self-discipline, confidence and faith that put Tebow back under center. If allowed on the field, America’s “gamers” will prove that not only aren’t we soft, we’re winners, like Tebow.

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