Mitt Romney’s nomination as the 2012 Republican candidate for President is an important and historical moment for me and many other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the U.S. and the world. A thick glass ceiling was shattered when Romney, a prominent member of my faith, overcame anti-Mormon bigotry prevalent in parts of the Republican primary electorate to clinch the GOP nomination. During the past twelve years we have been witnesses to a triumph over a wide array of social prejudices in American politics with the nomination of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate in 2000, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s historic run as the first serious female contender for the White House in 2008, and Barack Obama’s election as the country’s first African-American president. We may very well have a Mormon as our President starting next January. While I admire Romney’s dedicated unpaid service in my church as a bishop and stake president, believe that he is a good family man who also cares deeply about our country, and am thrilled by Romney’s ascension to the GOP nomination in this Mormon moment, I am confident that he is the wrong person for the job of President of the United States.
For those of you who read my posts on a regular basis you know I have a deep respect for President Reagan. Not the Reagan fantasized by the Tea Party today but the real Reagan that negotiated with the left instead of holding them hostage, was liberal on social platforms, and used religion only as a tool in the Cold War. Last night I was taking my wife through 30 years of unemployment (yes, I am a boring husband) and was startled by a very remarkable similarity. With yesterday's unemployment rate announcement, President Obama's and President Reagan's first term curves are basically identical.
Both presidents inherited skyrocketing unemployment rates and both, through different measures, were able to start moving the economy again and experienced significant job gains the back half of their first terms. Both presidents inherited 8% employment rates, watched them climb to 10%+, and then fall again to high 7%. Reagan's dramatic direction change came behind Paul Volcker's handling of the Federal Funds Rate, which dropped from 19% in 1981 to 8.5% in 1982 freeing up cash and driving significant capital investment. President Obama also has help from the Fed through quantitative easing and driving demand through deficit spending.
What shouldn't be overlooked, is with the national unemployment rate falling below 8%, almost every economic metric is now better than when President Obama took office. GDP is growing again after watching significant drop in production. The Dow is back to pre-bubble levels and has climbed dramatically in the last three years largely due to record corporate profits. Now the only argument the right has is the skyrocketing national debt, but as I demonstrated here this has very little to do with President Obama's legislation.
If some of your older Republican friends have a problem with the unemployment curve under President Obama, ask them if they voted for Reagan in 1984. If any of your friends ask if we are better off now than four years ago, feel free to engage in that conversation.
The Dow, which is a good measure of corporate profits and productivity, has climbed back to it's pre-bubble level. This increased productivity frees up capital which allows companies to expand their workforce. Jobs are a lagging economic indicator, and are being driven by the returns from private industry we are seeing today.
The dramatic decline in GDP productivity came the final year of President Bush's second term. The GDP decline bottomed out halfway into President Obama's first year and has experienced positive growth since. Although they are not quite to the growth levels of the mid 2000's, we are also not leveraging our home equity to pay for big screen TVs.
Remarks that Mitt Romney made to wealthy donors back in May 2012, have put Romney in an awkward position. Romney denigrated nearly half of the population of the U.S. and erroneously claimed that Obama supporters were all dependent on government assistance. After receiving a question about how Romney would be able to win the election, Romney remarked:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax… My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.Read more
While we will not ever say that our interpretation of Mormon doctrine's political implications is the only viable one, we here at MormonLiberals.org firmly believe that ours is the most viable. We will never say "You can't be a good Mormon and a good conservative" (even though we've been told we can't be liberal and be good Mormons hundreds of times). Here's what we say instead.Read more
The liberal businessperson stops one day to survey her business. "Wow," she thinks to herself, "look at all these people who work at my company. They work so hard, stay so late, dedicate so much. All for me and my business. They must be Saints!"
The conservative businessperson stops one day to survey her business. "Wow," she thinks to herself, "look at all these people who work at my company. They work so hard, stay so late, dedicate so much. All for me and my business. I must be a Saint!"Read more
Today is Constitution Day in the United States, a day to celebrate our country's Founding and the ongoing experiment it started. It also marks the one year anniversary of the Occupy movement, which builds on the freedoms protected by the Constitution in order to increase social and political equality at a time when it is too common to value wealth more than welfare.Read more
With the presidential election heating up there is one soundbite we hear from both sides on a regular basis – unemployment. Although each side will lay out persuasive stories to drive awareness to their positions, unemployment is an elusive number driven by multiple levers. Using only one measure to judge economic health is not only irresponsible, but laughable. The GDP continues to grow, the stock market has returned to pre-bubble levels, and corporations are enjoying record profits. Like all business cycles, unemployment is a lagging indicator and is the last measure to reflect economic change.
The American public gives presidents too much credit regarding the economy. Presidents are powerful legislators but they do not control economic cycles given our market-based system. Understanding changes in the job market has more to do with Federal Reserve policies than presidential agendas. Regardless of what you might think of George W. Bush, his policies had little to do with the banking collapse. Unemployment stayed low during the early Bush years primarily due to the low cost of borrowing money. Credit cards were cheap. Mortgages were cheap. Refinances were cheap. Americans were leveraging personal debt to drive the economy through revolving credit and real estate borrowing. Money was pulled from the housing boom and spent on consumer goods and services.
When the economy finally erupted at the end of the Bush administration and the free flow of capital was capped, the market swung the other direction and debt became a crippling liability. Corporations started cutting costs and consumer good consumption did not meet their growth targets. The stock market began its decline which further eroded any free capital that could be used to keep the economic engine turning. The marketplace friction finally took a toll on employment. The final year of the Bush Administration saw unemployment double due to increased efficiencies and budgetary choices. Corporate hiring freezes led private sector job declines and proactive attrition was used to shrink the workforce. With the sudden loss of investment tax, property tax, and sales tax our state and federal government saw almost $1 trillion in lost revenue. Government was considering cuts in public sector jobs to avoid insolvency.
In 2008, in the middle of the presidential campaign, TARP was passed and signed into law by President Bush (recent polls show only 34% of Americans correctly identify President Bush as the signer) to help banks with capital and drive private investment. In 2009, one month after taking the oath, President Obama signed the American Recovery Act which did several things:
- Sent significant money to states to free up budgets and maintain public sector employees (teachers, police, fire, etc)
- Invested in public and private infrastructure projects
- Paid for a significant tax cut to drive consumer spending
- Paid for unemployment benefits and healthcare cobra accounts due to the unemployment surge.
Between TARP and the Recovery Act capital was freed up to drive private sector growth, consumer spending, and sustain public sector employment. Best estimates by reputable economists believe the Obama Recovery Act created or saved over two million jobs mostly public sector, with TARP and Federal Reserve policies driving significant private sector growth (I know fellow President Obama supporters use the following chart, but the data is not supported by legislation signed by the President).
As the campaigns continue to move forward take a second and really evaluate what the candidates are saying. Unemployment is an important economic indicator, but voting for either candidate solely on this issue will lead to frustration due to lack of control.
In the last post, I illustrated how the positive right to an education is essential to a modern economy. Most Americans do not question the right to a public education, perhaps because it has been a fact of American life for over a century. Other positive rights adopted to some extent by American society, which are unfortunately more controversial, include the right of the disabled to a dignified existence, the right to food and shelter, and the right to life-saving emergency care. Most recently, through the 2010 Affordable Care Act, we adopted in principle the right to adequate comprehensive health care.Read more
In my last post, I mentioned certain “positive rights” that Americans have come to assume are part of the social contract. Public education is perhaps the least controversial example of a positive right in America. As a society, we generally believe that every child has a right to a high school education, regardless of his or her parents’ income level. However, with the recent upswing of right-wing extremism, some (generally Ron Paul supporters) question the right to a public education because it requires redistribution of wealth throughout a community. Many extreme libertarians view government taxation for any kind of social program, including public education, as theft, and advocate a system of government where any redistributive program do not exist.Read more