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“Lost in a Lost World” Election 2016

October 21, 2016

” I woke up today, I was crying, lost in a lost world” Moody Blues 1972

Looking out to the 2016 Presidential election from the vantage point of one year ago, I found myself more than a bit hopeful. After 7 years of a liberal Presidency that helped bring us the weakest post-WWII economic recovery ever, the lowest labor participation rate since the late 1970s ( a much more telling statistic than the unemployment rate), virtually no growth in average per capita incomes, a quadrupling of our money supply, a more than doubling of our federal debt to almost $20 Trillion, the largest set of federal income tax increases in our history, ZERO progress in dealing with our exploding Medicare and Social Security unfunded liabilities totaling nearly an eye-popping $200 trillion, surely this election would be about those very issues. Maybe, we could solve these problems and mitigate a coming financial and economic meltdown or at least lessen its impact with a more fiscally responsible leader.

Today, my Charlie Brown optimism has evaporated as sure as Lucy pulls away the football every time Charlie tries to kick it. Donald Trump was nominated by the Republicans for President in July and this fiscal conservative was left twisting in the wind. I have tried everything to try to lessen my depression and my cynicism. I have tried not listening to any news reports on the election. Then, I tried watching the first debate by myself and laughing at Trump ( and occasionally Hillary too). I switched back and forth between the 2nd debate and Sunday Night Football which featured my team the NY Giants looking atrocious, though not as atrocious as the debate. I tried crying in the shower. I thought of fashioning a bumper sticker “Don’t Blame Me I’m from Ohio” (since Kasich won Ohio) along the lines of the famous “Don’t blame me I’m from Massachusetts” that became the rage in the mid-1970s after Nixon was linked to the Watergate scandal (recall that Massachusetts was the only state to go for McGovern in the Nixon landslide victory in 1972). I even considered starting a write in campaign for “None of the Above”. Nothing seems to help. In fact, the most insightful thing I have heard this entire election cycle was the focus group participant responding to NBC News by noting ” 350 Million People and we chose these two to run for President?”.

To be crystal clear, I am NO fan of Donald Trump – never have been and never will. He is not even remotely “Presidential” and the recent revelations regarding his alleged sexual misconduct around women and his so-called “locker room banter” is disgusting. But it goes way beyond this. I am worried that Trump’s egomaniac “I’ll fix that”, his lack of ability to get along with members of his own party, let alone the Democrats, suggests that the man would be a disaster in office and is probably NUTS. Do I like Hillary Clinton being our next President? Other than the fact it will make my daughters and wife very happy, I can’t say I do. But at least I know that with exception of economic policy (taxes, jobs, fiscal spending, debt, social security and Medicare), most of what she will try to do as President will at least be semi-reasonable.

Nonetheless, I cringed when the discussion in the final debate came to taxes, social security and Medicare. Hillary seemed enamored with the notion that if we simply make the top 1% their “fair share”, then we could fix everything including Social Security and Medicare! Wow! Really??? This completely ludicrous notion is not shared by anyone who is trained in economics and recognizes that the top 1% earns a lot – 19% of all reported income, BUT also ALREADY pays a lot more – 38% of all federal income taxes (seems like at least, their “fair” share to me). Also, many of these top 1% are small successful businesses that are creating the little job growth that we do have in the US. In fact, evidence abounds that raising the top marginal tax rates is probably the WORST possible way to raise more revenues! Meanwhile, the Donald talked about his tax plan (which is not at all revenue neutral and will only add to our deficits) , his repeal of Obama care ( good idea in my view, but hardly a solution for soaring Medicare spending). The simple reality which of course no one is willing to talk about is that most taxpayers will need to pay more, and some benefits will have to be cut for us to FIX social security and Medicare, permanently.

There are many good, largely “conservative” ideas that can help make us all better off and more importantly help the middle and lower-income citizens of this country. They have worked in the US before and /or have worked in other countries. These include among others:

  1. Corporate tax reform ( NOTE: we now have the highest tax rates in the developed world ) would eliminate many inefficient deductions, but substantially lower our corporate tax rate which would greatly encourage location of businesses in the US as opposed to offshore, and at worst would be revenue neutral.
  2. Better still, outright obliteration of the current pernicious tax code, replacing it with the Fair Tax – which as I have blogged about before is a national consumption tax. The Fair Tax eliminates ALL federal taxes (including social security and Medicare) on most of the bottom 50% of incomes, effectively taxes the more $1 trillion underground economy, encourages savings and investment, eliminates the huge inefficiency and fundamental unfairness of our current tax code, and would be a boon to long run economic growth.
  3. Competitive schools with school choice for parents
  4. Elimination of unnecessary and duplicative regulation (and there is a lot of that!).

Further, perhaps we could even return to the most basic notion of beginning to live within our means (as most of us individuals do), slashing still WAY TOO HIGH government spending, running balanced budgets and even beginning to pay down some of our huge debt burden thru a combination of budget cutting AND massive tax reform.

But this election hasn’t been even remotely about real issues or any sensible solutions. Between the evidence of Donald’s foul mouth, horrible personality and the likelihood that he sexually harassed women, and the various shady revelations about the Clinton Foundation’s pay to play policies and the Hillary’s inability to handle email properly (and the probability, albeit with no proof, that she destroyed many incriminating emails), the election campaign has been a true circus. One could reasonably conclude that if the Democrats or Republicans had nominated ANYONE else, that this election would be a landslide for that candidate.

I can’t wait for this election to be over. I just hope we can survive being “lost in a lost world” when the dust settles.




From → Public Policy

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