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User Fees
RAND: Publications: Paul Sorenson: Mileage-Based User Fees for Transportation Funding

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on WordPress

Mileage-based user fees to help fund new roads, might be worth looking at to fund and repair infrastructure in America. The more you drive, you more you pay for roads, bridges and everything else. The more you fly the more you pay for airports. My issue would be that workers who perhaps aren’t poor, but have to drive a lot either on the job or to and from work everyday and perhaps qualify for public assistance, or make just over that, could get stuck with large transportation bills every week. If there would be some relief for low and moderate income drivers and workers, I would be open to that idea.

What I think our infrastructure system needs is a short and long-term financing system for our infrastructure. One, to keep up with current infrastructure investments in America, but also to further invest in this country and build new infrastructure. And we need new funding to accomplish a short and long-term funding system for our infrastructure. Short-term, would be a long-term infrastructure bill passed by Congress and singed by the President. The current gas tax, is simply not adequate enough, especially with autos now running on other energy resources. So you need to look at other potential sources to fund our infrastructure.

A short-term infrastructure bill, could be funded through perhaps user fees and fees for using roads, bridges and everything else. But we could also tax things that people simply don’t need and bring health costs in America to pay for our infrastructure. Things like sugar, salt, tobacco, alcohol, to use as examples. As well as encouraging private companies to invest in our infrastructure, that they would get back by people simply using it. Driving and flying to use as examples. And that is where something like a National Infrastructure Bank would come in.

A National Infrastructure Bank, would be a separate independent non-profit public company, that would be in charge of prioritizing infrastructure in the country. By working with people around the country to figure out what infrastructure projects need to be worked on and built. And then go to the private sector to get the funding to pay for the projects. That they would invest voluntarily and get their money back and then some based on how often people use the infrastructure that they invested in. That would be my long-term solution to fund infrastructure in America and it would create hundreds of thousands of good construction and engineering jobs every year.

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American Economy
Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat

I know this is going to sound like a copout and trying not to take a hard stand and everything else, but the answer to why the American economy does better under Democratic presidents than Republican presidents to put it simply, is both. Democratic presidents tend to have better economic policies which I’ll get to later than Republicans. And when a Democrat is President many times they become President just right before the economy is about to take off. Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton are perfect examples of that. Harry Truman would be another one and Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter are unfortunately the exceptions to that.

As far as policies Democratic presidents both liberal and progressive tend to want an economy that works for everyone. Sure Republican presidents I’m sure believe in the same thing. But Democrats put in the policies that make that economy come about. Which is why they focus so much on education, infrastructure, job training for low-income workers and unemployed workers whether they are educated or not, encouraging companies to invest in low-income areas.

Republicans tend to believe in what George H.W. Bush called when he ran for president in 1980 ‘Voodoo Economics’, that some others call Trickle Down Economics. “You cut regulations and taxes for employers and individuals and the economic activity that will come from those business’s and individuals that now have that extra money will now be invested in other business’s and that economic activity will benefit everyone as a whole”. That is the theory anyway, but the results have been at best mixed for thirty-five years or so ever since the policy was introduced in Congress by then Representative Jack Kemp and Senator Bill Roth.

As far as the lets say good luck, yes Democratic presidents have inherited economies that were just about to take off. Bill Clinton comes to mind in 1993 with the Cold War just ending and with the start of the Information Technology Revolution just getting under way around 1990-91 with all the cell phones and laptop computers now online and of course the internet just getting under way. The Clinton White House had their own website under way from the start and had email as well.

So yes Democratic presidents happen to of become President when the economy is just about to boom. But they’ve also have pushed policies that empowers all workers to be able to take advantage of economic booms. Economic booms do nothing for people without the skills to take advantage of them. Which is why education is always so critical for any economy to do well. And Democrats tend to push those polices more than Republicans.
PBS: Washington Week- Does The Country Do Better Under Democrats or Republicans?

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Too Big to Fail
The Fiscal Times: Opinion: David Daven: Here’s How to Ensure that Big Banks Don’t Need Another Bailout in the Future

This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

Looking back at with six-years of hindsight I’m not sure if I would’ve voted for TARP or the Troubled Asset Relief Program if I was a member of Congress back in 2008. For one even I didn’t vote for it, it would’ve passed anyway. So it wouldn’t been like the banking system was going to collapse because without this taxpayer, but debt funded relief package wasn’t going to go to the failing banks. But also there were better options on the table like breaking up these failing banks. Bankruptcy and perhaps most importantly not putting TARP on the national debt card, but having it paid for from the start.

Now a couple of options that I would’ve liked to of seen President Bush and Congress back in 2008 take and had these options not of made it into the banking relief package perhaps they become part of Wall Street financial reform in 2010 that was passed by Congress that became the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform bill of 2010, named after Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank.

First of all breaking up big banks so they don’t get so big and become so important in the economy that if they fail that could hurt the economy. So once a bank gets to a certain point, the Feds perhaps the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation steps in and says “you are too big now and you have to sell off some of your assets to get down to a healthier size at market value”.

Second forcing banks of all size or at least up to a certain size to pay for bankruptcy insurance. So when they do go under they have a choice. Either collect from their bankruptcy insurance that they paid into, or file for bankruptcy. But no longer would they be eligible for a taxpayer bailout.

Hindsight of course is 20/20, but there were already other and better options on the table in 2008 when TARP was passed on an emergency basis and seen as something that had to be done right then as is. And in 2010 when Congress and now President Obama being in charge, but instead came up with the best compromise they felt they could so they could get something done.

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Money, Money, Money

Wealth or income redistribution, it depends on how you define it because government at all levels does it all the time everyday. And generally when government redistributes wealth it is noncontroversial. It taxes these people who live here to fund a school or fix a road over here. Social Security taxes today’s workers to pay for today’s retirees. So for anyone who says they are against wealth redistribution they should also explain how they feel about public education and roads and so forth. Things that the public uses everyday that if anything most of us tend to take for granted.

But this post is not really about noncontroversial income redistribution because where would the fun be in that. But to talk about the controversial forms of wealth redistribution at least at the hands of government. That is calls from the let’s say so-called progressive-left or even socialist-left that says “the Federal Government should tax the superrich and perhaps just plain rich people. (Perhaps minorities would be excluded) To take care of Americans who aren’t doing very well and perhaps people who aren’t technically but have to work very hard and a lot just to pay their bills”.

If you want a society that is financially free at least in the sense that it is successful and not only able to pay their bills, but set aside money for themselves and even donate to charity and perhaps look after family members and friends who may need a little extra money, that economic success simply has to be encouraged and rewarded. Instead of essentially punishing people for making it on their own and making a lot of money to take care of people who aren’t successful.

Otherwise you will create an dependent society in America instead of that free society where wealth is discouraged and dependency on government in order to survive financially is encouraged. Because you are telling people whether intentionally or not that they shouldn’t be successful because we the government will take a lot of that money from you. And also telling people that “if you aren’t successful the wealthy will take care of you at the hands of government”.

What we should be doing instead as a society especially for struggling Americans is to empower them to become successful on their own. Either by finishing their education or furthering their education. So they can get themselves the skills that they need to be successful in life. And that means reforming public education in America, making educational and job training opportunities universal for low-skilled adults. And for the college educated who now need more skills because their good job left for another country or no longer exists. And investing a lot more in infrastructure especially in underserved communities so they have the roads, schools and business’s that they need to be economically successful.

You want more Americans to be doing well in America you don’t discourage the Americans who are doing well already to stop being successful. What you do instead is continue to encourage people to be successful in this country. As well as empower more Americans to be successful as well.
Media Spin: Milton Friedman- Redistribution of Wealth

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The Fiscal Times: Report: Eric Pianin: Senator John Thune’s Thorny Political Test: Pass the Highway Bill

If Congress were under different and I would just state wiser leadership funding the Highway Trust Fund wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But since we have a Republican House of Representatives that is essentially run by the Tea Party where nothing gets funded or fixed unless their key issues are addressed and generally issues not relating to the current issue like the Highway Trust Fund and since the Tea Party House and their Republican allies in the Senate won’t fund anything that doesn’t come with budget cuts into areas they believe government shouldn’t be funding to begin with, Congress the House and Senate aren’t able to fix problems that 15-20 years ago they wouldn’t have many if any issues addressing.

Tax increases are obviously not the cure to every problem. And in a lot of cases can cause bigger problems especially when they are passed onto people who can’t afford them. Which is why I generally do not support income tax increases on anyone other than people who are doing very well. But in large part we do not fund our infrastructure through the income or payroll tax. We fund our infrastructure though the gas tax and other energy taxes. And we could fund them though mileage standards and taxing low-efficient vehicles more than high-efficient vehicles. Besides the gas tax is a fee that drivers pay to use our highways. So if that fund needs more money to pay for them it makes perfect sense to raise that tax.

But again we have a Tea Party Republican controlled House and even though we have a Democratic controlled Senate that does believe in things like infrastructure investment even paying for it and not borrowing the money there is a large enough Republican minority to block them. So we are caught in a position of what program to cut that hurts which population of people that needs that money. Or not doing one of the few things that Congress is supposed to do by law which is fund our highways.

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Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat

 

I would describe capitalism, or private enterprise, meaning private businesses and wealth controlled by individuals or groups of individuals, not by the state, as the worst type of economic system in the world, except for all the rest.  Actually, as has been pointed out on this blog many times, what I call liberal capitalism is capitalism designed to include everyone, where everyone has economic freedom and is not controlled by the special few or by government.  This is the worst form of capitalism, except for all the rest.

I mention that because there are several forms of capitalism, and all developed countries and rapidly developing countries, large countries like Mexico, Brazil, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan, have one form or another of a capitalist economic system. And the beauty of each of these different types of capitalist systems is the idea that your competitors cannot just outclass you but also put you out of business. So in this system, you must deliver the best services possible at the most affordable and competitive prices or be driven out of business.

The disadvantage of capitalism is that some people do very well for whatever reason, for example, starting off very rich along with getting the best education possible, or simply coming from modest roots but working very hard and productively and reaping the benefits so they are more than capable of caring for themselves and their families.

But on the other side, there are people at the bottom who, for whatever reason, either through bad personal choices, such as not finishing their education or having children before they were ready to raise them properly, or coming from a low-income family without access to a decent education, now find themselves living in poverty as adults and perhaps raising children as well.

That is where social insurance, or the safety net, jumps in to help the people at the bottom, where they are ignored by the private market or did not take advantage of the opportunities presented by the private market to make a good life for themselves. The safety net covers temporary financial assistance for people living in poverty and not currently working and provides access to education and job training, which provide the tools needed to achieve economic freedom by finding a good job with a living wage.

UMass Economics: Social vs Private Insurance

 

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I’m all in favor of trying to boost economic and job growth when the economy is weak with something like a new national infrastructure plan, a National Infrastructure Bank. But when you have a national debt as high as your Gross National Product, I mean 17 trillion dollars is one figure. I bet most Americans have a hard time getting their fingers around the total size of the American economy as well as national debt, and when it is that high it blows their minds. Your credit card bill is due and to keep what you need to pay back from getting even further out of hand you at least have to start paying some of that back to keep your credit from being ruined altogether.

We have a financial deficit, an infrastructure deficit, an energy deficit, a manufacturing deficit, and a tax deficit. Our corporate tax system is not competitive with a lot of the developed world. When your economy is just barely over the water, that is the perfect time to fix all of those things. But do it in a fiscally responsible way so you don’t make your current financial situation any worse than it is or it has to be and, yes, interest rates are low right now but artificially low because of the Federal Reserve decisions, not because of any real strength in the economy.  So:

1. Let’s encourage more corporate and other business-related investment in the United States, including manufacturing and energy.

2. Let’s start rebuilding this country with a National Infrastructure Bank.

3. Let’s encourage more manufacturing in America and stop encouraging companies to send jobs overseas.

4. Let’s create a plan to move America toward energy independence by producing America’s energy across the board, at least in the short term.

5. And let’s have real tax reform so we can lower taxes on the middle class, which would also boost economic growth as well.

But let’s pay for all of these policies instead of adding to our national credit card.

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