- - Friday, August 5, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

The most important policy issue this election cycle may very well be the one getting the least attention – the economy.

While the economy, so far, at least, appears to be a mere afterthought for both presidential candidates (and, thus, for the media), the issue nevertheless weighs heavily on the minds of American voters. A recent Gallup poll shows that more than a quarter of all respondents identified the economy as the “most important problem facing the country today,” confirming what’s been the top issue on the minds of voters for the entire duration of the Obama presidency.

Americans are justified in this concern about the economy. By any number of metrics, President Obama’s economic legacy is a dismal failure. The national debt has nearly doubled during President Obama’s time in the White House, from $10.63 trillion to the current level of $19.4 trillion. There are 10.1 million more people on food stamps today than when President Obama assumed office. Home ownership, so inextricably intertwined with our notion of the “American Dream,” is down, too. And then there is the issue of the dissipating labor force. Each of these bleak statistics is a salient reminder of the anemic economy.

But, to listen to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump speak on the campaign trail, one gets the distinct impression that neither one is paying attention to the economy, or has given much serious thought to solutions that could actually work.

Hillary Clinton, who frequently touts her desire to improve middle-class America, has put together an uninspiring economic platform that borrows from, and, indeed, expands upon, President Obama’s failures. She promises more investments for infrastructure – especially for the national highway system – more “clean energy” jobs, and free college. In other words, she wants to recycle President Obama’s failed “shovel-ready jobs” program, his embarrassing clean energy plan that propelled Solyndra to national infamy, and expand on his plan to make free college an entitlement program.

What Hillary Clinton lacks in creativity, she makes up for in stick-to-itiveness and a stubborn willingness to double-down on the failed ideas of the Left.

Which brings us to Donald Trump’s economic plan.

While it is entirely unsurprising that the Democratic presidential candidate is peddling a package of heavy-handed, big-government, taxpayer-funded programs, it is nothing short of remarkable that the Republican nominee is attempting to run to the left of the Democratic nominee on economic matters.

Take, for example, Donald Trump on infrastructure. Just this week, Trump promised to “at least double” the amount that Hillary Clinton is planning to spend on the infrastructure. In other words, Trump has wholeheartedly embraced the shovel-ready jobs economic plan that is a key part of President Obama’s economic failures. What’s even more significant is that Trump seems to agree with the Left that we can spend taxpayer dollars to create enough jobs to sustain the economy – a fallacy that history has repeatedly refuted.

So, while both presidential candidates advance economic plans that will do little to spur growth or improve the economy, it is worth examining what a pro-growth economic plan actually would look like. At Tea Party Patriots we believe the best way to approach the national debt and deficit is through a combination of spending reductions and pro-growth policies. Congress, however, has demonstrated an unwillingness to consider even the slightest spending cuts, so what are we to do? Focus on growing the country into a balanced budget.

During President Obama’s tenure in the White House, the annual GDP growth rate has sputtered around the 2 percent mark. (Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, remarks that President Obama is the only president in U.S. history not to have a single year during his time in office with 3 percent or higher.) During most of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the annual GDP growth rate was around 4 percent – double what it is today.

The difference between a 2 percent GDP growth rate and a 4 percent GDP growth rate may not sound like much, but it is, in fact,enormous. That 2 percent difference amounts to approximately $500 billion annually (or an astounding $5 trillion over a 10-year period). It’s worth noting that the deficit this year is approximately $500 billion, so just by returning to the growth rates of the ‘80s and ‘90s, we could realistically do away with deficit spending, and put ourselves into position to tackle the long-term debt.

Pro-growth economic plans would include simplifying the tax code to make it both flatter and fairer, and reducing the excessive federal regulations that hamper business growth and dissuade entrepreneurs from ever opening businesses. Our current tax code contains more than 75,000 pages of regulations, most of which hold back the economy and saddle small businesses with onerous tax-compliance fees.

If either presidential candidate wanted to address our country’s pressing economic issues, reforming the tax code, reducing the regulatory regime, and creating an environment that encourages and inspires job creation would be a good start. But, for now, both candidates appear happy to peddle a re-packaged version of President Obama’s job-killing agenda. The American public, dissatisfied with food stamps programs instead of jobs, should insist that both candidates look at simple solutions that could return the nation to job-creating growth levels.

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