Economy & Budget

American Action Forum

From my own personal point of view, I was pretty frustrated that the current
policy debate was devoid of anything new. Everybody on the right was pining for
the next Ronald Reagan, or worse, were pretending they were the next Ronald

I love Ronald Reagan, but when Reagan formulated some of his ideas, he wasn’t
looking to be the next Franklin Roosevelt. He wasn’t looking to the past. He
was looking to the future.

We wanted to have both a think tank and an advocacy piece that could take the
ideas to the country and to the candidates. We soon heard that former Sen. Norm
Coleman (R-Minn.) and famed businessman Fred Malek were thinking the same
thing, and we decided to join forces.

Yesterday, the American Action Network and the American Action Forum had an
opening press conference. Today, the American Action Network went right to
work. It had its first forum with the appropriate title, “How to Create Jobs?”

Fred Malek introduced the governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, who gave the
keynote address. McDonnell’s focus on the jobs issues helped him win the
election, and his strategies for creating jobs, if they are successful, may
propel him to the White House. He was a good choice to start the conference.
Norm Coleman gave a great speech about the political realities that face this

Holtz-Eakin moderated a discussion with two panels, both with bipartisan
representation. The first panel, which was more economist in approach, included
Jared Bernstein, the smartest policy person in the White House, who gave a
spirited (if unconvincing to me) defense of the stimulus plan. It also included
two more conservative economics experts, who debunked the Bernstein presentation.
Jared had to leave right after his talk to meet with the vice president, so he
wasn’t there to defend himself.

The second panel had representatives from the National Federation of
Independent Business, the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce. Interestingly,
despite the fact that these were all senior people in their organizations, the
labor and business reps had never met before and had never served on the same
panel before. That could explain why most people think Washington is broken.

This forum was a great start to what I hope will be an ongoing discussion about
the future of jobs, our economy and our country.

Because of time constraints, the panelists didn’t have time to discuss what the
future will likely look like for most American workers and what steps the
government could take to make that American worker succeed. The fact of the
matter is that we don’t need as many people to manufacture stuff or to produce
food, or even to make music. So we should invest in people’s creativity, because
ultimately, creativity will be the next big thing.

I think we should focus on giving consumers more power to achieve their own
dreams. We should make healthcare more portable. We should give folks more
power over their retirements. We should clear away all of the crazy regulations
so that small-business owners don’t get strangled by the myriad of taxes and
work rules that come from the state, local and federal level.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t know what the future is for the
American workforce. But we do know that things are changing and they are
changing quickly and that not all of the changes are a bad thing.

I am glad that the American Action Forum is around, because I think this is one
of the few places in Washington that the left and right can have a grown-up
discussion about the future.


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