The U.S. economy is in a rut. On the one hand, growth is stagnant, unemployment is high and huge deficits are leading to massive debt. On the other hand our population has an increasing number of retirees and also an increasing number of low income (often immigrant and minority) service workers. These groups demand more services in the form of entitlements and social welfare programs. In a democracy these needs are hard to deny. Is it possible to better stimulate the economy, alleviate inequality and shrink deficit spending at the same time? I believe it is!
- Stimulating the economy. The best way to do this is to lower both individual and corporate tax rates in a revenue neutral way by eliminating, or at least greatly reducing, tax preferences. Faster growth of GDP will both reduce unemployment and bring in more tax revenue and thereby lower the deficit.
- Reducing inequality. I join many others to propose a large scale, government funded, infrastructure development program, badly needed for its own sake, but also as a way of putting hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people back to work. However, and this is essential, it has to be paid for by a major new source of revenue. My own preference is to establish a new tax, on the assets of very wealthy people, say with a net worth of $10,000,000 or more. An asset tax of between one and two percent per year would bring in several hundred billion dollars and also represents a highly visible way of reducing inequality without adversely affecting the economy.
- Shrinking the Deficit. One of the biggest problems with many federal programs is that there is neither built in quality control nor cost control. There is little incentive for either Congress or federal bureaucrats to set priorities and control costs. A good way to change this system is to devolve many federal programs back to the states where such controls do exist. I will have more to say about this in future posts.
Big changes are needed at the federal level to get our economy back on track and put people back to work. There are ways to do this and we simply need leaders with enough vision and determination to get the job done!