Must America Resign Itself to Much Slower Economic Growth?

The cover story in this week’s Barron’s, by Jonathan Laing, “The Snail Economy, Slowing to a Crawl”, makes a well-documented argument that “over the next 20 years, the U.S. economy is likely to grow only 2% a year.  That’s down from 3% or better since World War II.  Blame it on an aging population and sluggish productivity growth.  Bad news for stocks and social harmony.”
Here’s an example of the argument he makes.  “Mean incomes of minorities in the U.S. population have remained at about 60% of white incomes in recent decades.  Unless that pattern changes, and minorities earn bigger incomes, that augers slower income growth for the overall population as the baby boomers, predominately white, retire over the next 20 years. …At the same time the minority population, particularly Hispanic, will expand. …If income relationships remain the same, U.S. median income growth will drop by an estimated 0.43% a year through 2020 and 0.52% a year over the succeeding decade.”
This demographic trend can be offset to some extent by boosting the ages at which Social Security benefits are received in order to lighten the burden on those who are working.  Immigration policy could be reformed to attract more highly skilled (and therefore more highly paid as well) workers to further offset the growing number of retirees.  “And most of all, the U.S. should engage in a crash educational program to close the gap in skills and income levels among different parts of the American population.”
In addition to the demographic challenge well described by Mr. Laing, there is the problem that growing economic efficiency (caused by advances in technology and ever more globalization) will continue to replace American workers by both machines and lower cost foreign workers.
It is imperative for us to set aside partisan ideology and dramatically confront all of these economic challenges to continued American supremacy on the world stage.  First and foremost we need fundamental tax reform, significantly lowering tax rates for all productive aspects of our economy, especially for investors, risk takers, entrepreneurs and corporations.  (Lower tax rates can be made revenue neutral by eliminating deductions and closing loopholes.)  We should simplify and streamline regulatory processes, again, to give all possible support to the businesses which can make the economy grow faster.
Our status in the world and therefore the future of our country depend on our success in this urgent endeavor!

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