Even though economic growth is much too slow, it has been steadily increasing since the end of the Great Recession at a rate of about 2.2% per year. But our economy actually shrunk at a 2.9% rate in the first quarter of 2014. Healthcare spending decreased by 6.9% in the first quarter and therefore contributed to this overall drop in GNP.
The New York Times’ economic reporter, Neil Irwin, discusses the connection, ”Our Economic Growth Is a Mystery. Obamacare is the Reason.” in yesterday’s paper. Since healthcare makes up one-sixth of the economy, and the implementation of Obamacare is expanding the healthcare sector, it is not surprising that the economy stumbles if Obamacare stumbles.
But he continues “The United States also has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, without producing better health outcomes. If the nation succeeds in reducing health care costs while also getting coverage for more people, it would be a huge win for the country’s long term competitiveness. Overtime the dollars that aren’t being spent on overpriced or unneeded health services can go to other stuff which makes life better: houses, college education, restaurant meals and the like.”
Conclusion: we need to try all the harder to figure out how to grow the economy faster. The best single thing we can do about this is to implement fundamental tax reform whereby individual tax rates are cut across the board, paid for by closing many of the loopholes and deductions which primarily benefit the rich. The two thirds of taxpayers who do not itemize deductions will automatically receive a tax reduction in this way. Since they are middle and lower income wage earners, with largely stagnant incomes, they will tend to spend their tax savings, thereby boosting the economy.
The loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy are example of crony capitalism which both liberals and conservatives complain about. Closing these loopholes and other deductions is a very good way to lessen income inequality. Our leaders should be able to work together in this direction!