Economy & Budget

Free Trade and the Republican Debate

Something struck me as I watched the Republican debaters in Dearborn, Mich. No, it wasn’t the arrival of Fred Thompson to the dance. It wasn’t the strange inability of John McCain to hear Maria Bartiromo’s questions. It wasn’t the strange allure of Ron Paul’s neo-populist, neo-libertarian, neo-conspiracy-theory explanation of the carried-interest debate.

All of those points were notable. But to me, the most notable development was the drift of the Republican Party to protectionism.

The Detroit Debate

The debate today in Michigan is set against a stark backdrop of high unemployment and low economic growth. The American auto manufacturers face tough competition from abroad and a challenging legislative landscape with the Congress threatening to impose Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that will give a distinct advantage to Asian companies. Detroit is a city run by a corrupt mayor that has become increasingly unlivable over the past four decade, beset by high crime and horrible schools.

Michigan faces the worst economy in the country. It has been run by a once popular but now besieged Democratic governor. Dearborn, where the debate will actually happen, has one of the largest Muslim populations of any city in America.

The Targeted Tax

Author's Note: The following first appeared on the Democratic Leadership Council's new Ideas Primary website. I encourage all in the Democratic Party who care about solving problems and who understand the importance of holding the progressive Democratic Center to win the general election in 2008 to check out this new site that the DLC has established to generate new ideas for governing America and solving its major problems — rather than continuing the hyper-partisan food fights for another cycle.

Most taxes levied on Americans go into the general fund — meaning the income taxes and general corporate taxes, for example, paid by individuals and corporations go into a single pot, which is then divvied up among items in the federal budget.

Calling All Conservatives

The No. 1 criticism of President Bush from conservative activists has been that he has not done enough to control the size of government, especially domestic spending. They may be late to the party, but the administration deserves support from conservatives and all those who believe in bringing some limits to federal spending as the Congress considers a potential presidential veto of the so-called SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) extension.

How Many Times Can They Spend the Same Money?

There is a famous story about a former professional football coach, a wheeler-dealer type, who traded draft choices at warp speed. One year, however, even he went too far when he traded the same draft pick to two different teams. The NFL had to remind him that you can only trade a pick once.

Someone should repeat this story to liberal Democrats who have made promises to every spending lobby under the sun. The problem is that they’re spending the same money multiple times. 

The Real Effect of the Fed's Rate Cut

The Federal Reserve gave the market a much-needed boost and vote of confidence by lowering both the Fed Funds Rate and the Discount Rate on Tuesday. The stock market rallied as investors swooned with optimism. But how excited should consumers really be? 

The Campaign for the 'Fair Tax' is a Waste of Time

I’m desperate to write about something other than Iraq, so let’s close the week and switch to the neglected topic of tax policy.

Politicians are loath to deal with the problems at hand, and instead focus on matters “in another galaxy in a place far far away.” Such is the eternal quest for tax reform. Rather than trying to shape the current code to be more favorable to savings and investment, grandiose schemes (Al Gore would call it a “risky scheme”) are floated to scrap the current system and replace it with something totally new. 

Grapes of Wrath Return

Here is the problem with the Federal Reserve bailout of banks, rather than providing support to homeowners, citizens or the economy as a whole:

Check out the New York Times Aug. 20 story about how those who had their homes foreclosed on by banks often get huge tax bills from the IRS, while the banks buy the home back, at times for $1.

Put America First: Make Iowa Go Last

Imagine there’s no first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus. No need to pander to corn farmers. No politicizing ethanol for votes. No pressure to support hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded ethanol subsidies.