"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

Restoring the Last Best Hope of Earth

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 8
Publish Date: 
Thu, 10/25/2012


During the Civil War when the union’s preservation and slavery’s abolition were in doubt, President Lincoln roused the nation with his dream “of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.” In rekindling our Founders’ vision, Lincoln helped assure that America would become the freest and most prosperous nation on earth, a status successive US presidents have dutifully maintained, or they were cast aside by voters.


As Americans Think Again about President Obama, consider that no president has won re-election amid such economic stagnation, declining incomes, high gas prices and business pessimism.  Living astonishingly beyond our means and more indebted than any other nation in world history, Americans face a reduced standard of living, diminished opportunities for our children, and a weakened capacity to secure our national interests in a menacing world.


After trillions in fiscal and monetary stimulus, the 39-month old economic recovery has one-seventh the GDP growth rate of the Reagan recovery in which double-digit inflation and interest rates were also slain. With 261,000 fewer jobs today than January 2009 (despite population growth of 9 million), exploding poverty, government dependency, and income inequality imperil Lincoln’s dream.


During the economic turmoil of 2008, Obama sounded Lincoln-esque, promising to “provide good jobs to the jobless…secure our nation and restore our image as the last best hope on Earth.”  But unlike Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton who understood the benefits of economic growth policies – more and better jobs, larger paychecks, growing tax revenues without tax rate increases, and deficit and debt mitigation -- Obama doubled down on government-centric and budget-busting policies. 


Having inherited a government moving in the wrong direction on bailouts, spending, deficits and debt accumulation, Obama floored the gas. Though critical of Bush’s $4 trillion in accumulated debt and vowing to halve the annual deficit by now, Obama has run four successive trillion-dollar deficits – each nearly triple Bush’s average -- while increasing debt nearly $6 trillion to a sum ($16.1 trillion) that exceeds the US economy.  Historically, America’s economy has grown faster than its debt -- until Obama, under whom debt is growing $2.50 for every dollar of GDP growth.


With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, manditory expenditures for Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid are exploding, consuming more annually than the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and TARP bailouts.  Rather than address the looming entitlement crisis, Obama’s budget projects massive deficits and $20 trillion in debt by the end of his second term. So fiscally irresponsible, not one member of Congress -- not even a single Democrat -- has voted to approve either of Obama’s last two annual budgets.


Meanwhile, with Democrats in complete control of Congress through January 2011, Obama’s signature legislative “reforms” – Obamacare and Dodd-Frank – ignored Republican solutions, and imposed thousands of complex regulations and new taxes on the private economy, nearly paralyzing job creation and economic growth.


Though sold as “Wall Street reform”, Dodd-Frank makes bailouts more likely by designating selected banks “too-big-to-fail” and failing to reform the financial crisis’ real culprits -- housing-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. With smaller banks competitively disadvantaged, lending is down, consumer prices are up, and expensive consultants, like the former chiefs-of-staff to both Dodd and Frank, are in demand.


Neither is Obamacare meeting its promises. Insurance premiums are up $2,500 and according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Obamacare will cost nearly twice its original estimate, leave 30 million Americans uninsured, and cause 20 million people to lose their employer-provided health insurance. Additionally, it imposes 20 new taxes on families and small businesses and incentivizes employers to hire part-time instead of full-time workers.


Thanks to recent technological breakthroughs, America is now the most energy-endowed nation in the world.  Allowing the responsible development of our resources would generate millions of jobs while turbo-charging the economy and revitalizing distressed communities. Yet despite promising an “all-of-the-above” energy policy while investing $90 billion in uncompetitive green energy companies, Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced drilling permits on public lands by 36 percent, compared to increases of 116 and 58 percent under Bush and Clinton, respectively.


Meanwhile, GDP growth slumped to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, but Obama proposes to increase tax rates on “millionaires and billionaires” (individuals and small businesses making over $250,000) to promote fairness, after opposing them in 2010 when the economy was growing at twice its current rate. But how can it be fair to implement a policy that the CBO considers economically injurious and would yield only enough revenue to fund 8.5 days of government spending? Given Obama’s track record, how could another four years of the same policies result in enough economic growth to overcome our economic challenges?


Mindful of these challenges and eager to diffuse the debt bomb while preserving entitlement programs for future generations, Governor Romney proposes to expand the private economy with spending, regulatory, tax and entitlement reforms reminiscent of those enacted by Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton – modern America’s most successful economic stewards.  Romney proposes to cut tax rates by 20 percent for all Americans while maintaining the same share of taxes paid by the wealthy. But unlike Bush, he’ll pay for them by eliminating expensive loopholes only accessible to wealthy individuals and companies like GE.


Divided as we were during the Civil War, Americans long to be unified by a leader, like Lincoln, committed to expanding liberty and increasing individual opportunity -- the source of human flourishing and America’s promise.


Think Again – only by restoring these cultural bulwarks can we pass our children a strong America, and remain the last best hope of earth.



The last best hope of Earth

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 0
Publish Date: 
Thu, 07/07/2011


Is the free market the best system for the world's future? So asked GlobeScan in its annual survey of 25 countries, conducted since 2002. Then, American confidence in the free market topped the poll at 80 percent.

If you assume that Americans are still first, Think Again. The 2010 survey reveals faith in the free market is at a low (59 percent) in the world's biggest economy placing the U.S. fifth behind Germany (68 percent), China and Brazil (both 67 percent), and Italy (62 percent). Intriguingly, American support for free markets dropped 15 points in just the last year resulting in an astonishing nine-point advantage for the Chinese.

Undoubtedly, Chinese confidence in free markets is high because 450 million Chinese were lifted out of poverty as the government liberalized the economy. However, because the Chinese do not enjoy the inalienable rights accorded Americans, China materially lags behind the U.S. in other living standard metrics including civil liberties, life expectancy, infant mortality, child labor and a clean environment. Meanwhile, according to the World Bank, China's national wealth trails America's in terms of GDP per capita ($7,570 versus $47,020).

The real conundrum is why did American support for the free markets survive the tumultuousness of the early 2000s — the bursting tech bubble, plummeting stock indices and corporate scandals that eliminated companies like WorldCom and Enron — only to drop last year?

Perhaps Americans are frustrated that the private sector isn't pulling the economy out of its doldrums, as with past recessions. We've become accustomed to economic cycles in which demand eventually increases as businesses replenish inventory and new construction replaces old. To meet increasing demand, companies hire employees and invest in equipment — this is the free market at work.

However, as the Chinese economy has grown freer, the U.S. economy has become less free. Most Americans are unaware that over the last decade, the government sector has grown five times faster than the private sector, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Moreover, politicians more interested in political power and rewarding allies from Wall Street to Main Street have undermined the free market with policies (health care, Internet, labor, environment and financial) that drive up costs on businesses and consumers, and create massive uncertainty for investors.

If Americans are down on the free market, they're gradually realizing it was the government that sabotaged it. Thanks to the new book “Reckless Endangerment” by New York Times business reporter Gretchen Morgenson and housing finance analyst Joshua Rosner, Americans are learning the true causes of the financial crisis: Government intervention in the private housing market and influence peddling among political insiders produced the weakest economy since the Great Depression.

The sad truth is that the financial crisis would never have occurred were it not for government policies that encouraged weak underwriting standards resulting in the creation of 27 million risky loans (half of all U.S. mortgages). Furthermore, politicians ignored rampant corruption at the government-sponsored entities (GSEs called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), wouldn't regulate them even after accounting scandals, and cost taxpayers more than $150 billion so far. Additionally, if politicians had performed their duties, the GSEs couldn't have spawned the seemingly profitable business in loans to people with bad credit that ultimately attracted Wall Street banks.

However, you won't hear politicians Think Again, never mind declare mea culpas. They're busy promoting fallacies, mis-assigning blame, denying responsibility and enacting “reforms” that do nothing to address the government policies primarily responsible for the crisis. Furthermore, by seizing even more governmental authority over the U.S. economy, politicians have further weakened the free markets prompting one regulator, Acting Comptroller of the Currency John Walsh, to warn that when regulations are “carried too far, the economy suffers” because higher costs impede the economic activity necessary for growth and job creation.

Consequently, confidence in politicians is as low today as it was during Watergate. Opportunistic politicians who wage class warfare and who demonize the successful, industrious and productive actually weaken public confidence in the very free-enterprise system that incentivized millions of Americans (native and immigrants) to take risks, compete, innovate, and achieve in the “land of opportunity.” Our free-enterprise system is the reason Americans have historically been among the richest and happiest nationalities and why, in a competitive global economy, the U.S. still produces one-quarter of the world's goods and services despite being only 3.4 percent of the world's population.

To preserve the system that is the source of our flourishing and the bedrock of our culture, we must choose leaders committed to expanding liberty and increasing individual opportunity. In doing so, we'll recover our confidence in free markets, and realize Abraham Lincoln's aspiration spoken in the darkest moments of the Civil War: “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.”

Think Again. You won't hear that said about China!

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