Thursday, January 22, 2009

Only Barack Obama Could Pull this Off and it Would Cure Economic Woes

Every week we here of increasingly higher jobless numbers and policy makers are dumbfounded as to what to do about it. Approximately one year ago we had virtually full employment at around 5 percent unemployment. At current trends, it will likely be ten percent or higher by the end of the year, unless something miraculous happens.

However, we are not hearing about any stroke of genius, but rather traditional government "solutions" to economic problems. We are hearing about "make work" programs and "bailouts" that have government at the center of the solution. It is interesting that Barack Obama, who was marketed as an agent of change, would find his solutions in the waste bin of government created work, for answers. He needs to go deeper, he needs to pursue an entire paradigm shift.

Obama campaigned as a candidate who supported transparent government, but there is nothing more deceptive than our current tax system that discourages wealth creation and places businesses in the role as tax collector. Remember, businesses don't pay taxes, they are merely tax collectors. Taxes are a fixed cost of doing business. If taxes on businesses were eliminated, consumers would enjoy the savings over night because businesses couldn't afford to be reluctant to transfer the savings due to competition. These taxes on businesses are the single force undermining job creation today. They force businesses to find countries that are cheaper for doing business, be it in labor, taxes, or other factors. Currently, the US has the second highest tax rate of any industrialized country in the world and we do not even want to compete with cheap salaries (nor can we). Eliminating dishonest business taxes would restore some transparency to government and create many more jobs. It is as simple as that.

But those taxes would have to be replaced with others and the only honest place to raise those revenues are directly on the people and on their consumption (rather than income), however challenging to pursue. This is contrary to Obama and the Democrats class conflict philosophy, but it is the most honest, efficient, and the least damaging on all job creation (in fact, it would generate more jobs). Obama could make history with these realities.

No one, but an anti-Communist like Richard Nixon, could open relations with the Chinese. If any President who had a history of being "soft" on Communists open these doors, they would have been denounced and dismissed. Nixon brought an element of surprise that made the move possible. So, too, was the case with Bill Clinton who truly did end "welfare as we know it." It took a progressive Democrat to break the cycle of poverty that was holding the poor hostage. If a Republican President had proposed such a policy he would have been dismissed as being "cruel" and "heartless." To change our tax code towards a consumption system would require a similar element of surprise and would need to be done by someone who has promoted himself as a champion of the poor. That describes Obama very well.

With such a policy, the only serious challenge he would face is among his fellow Democrats in Congress. However, if he continues to pursue policies that destroy jobs, he will likely have a Republican Congress in 2011. This is a similar situation that Bill Clinton had in the 1990s in which a Republican Congress played a role in getting his reform passed. Clinton's welfare reform is one of the greatest policy achievements of the second half of the 20th century. A change in the way we collect taxes by Obama could be one of the greatest policy achievements of the 21st century and it is one many would love for him to seriously consider. Especially those facing unemployment.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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