Anything but the Economy

Greatest recession since the Great Depression of our grandparents time.  Worst real estate market of the modern age. Unemployment at all time high for our generation. Gas prices soar. Spending stops. Foreclosure. Deficit. Debt. Bankruptcy.

These headlines crowd our newspapers, our blogs, our twitter feeds and our water cooler chats. But one particular group seems to not talk about it at all: our government. The White House continues to crowd out the number one issue in America right now, the economy, with anything else they can grasp at.

In fall 2008 when markets started to crash and the country’s outlook took a dive, Obama first started to talk about Health Care. I remember in late December hearing a speech ending with, “American’s number one concern is the state of heathcare.” And I distinctly recall saying, “Wait—isn’t it the economy?”

It certainly is to the under 40 crowd. No age group suffers more from un-and-underemployment then our recent college grad and young professionals. A recent article at FoxDC says that 37% of Generation Y is unemployed and 23% stopped looking (lots went back to school). And now a third of that generation has moved home because they can no longer afford cost of living.

When Obama came into office he rode on the heavy influence and support of Gen Y. Now he has turned his back on the generation most hurt by the current economic situation. Here’s how the system works. The recession causes job loss. Now Baby Boomers with more experience, more to lose, are out of work. So where do they go? They step down the ladder and take jobs that young college students would normally snatch up right out of school. Now some kids can’t even find employment because their underemployed parents stole those positions. So now you have a generation who either can’t find work or is unwilling to take an job for less than the salary they were told to expect by their college professors. Now there is a gap. Certain segments of Gen Y will suffer more than others, causing a “lost” generation of five or six years. These kids will not get the jobs they were promised out of school and by the time the recession ends younger, fresher college grads will appear to take the positions that finally open up.

But Obama doesn’t talk about Generation Y losing their faith in the job market and even public schools. He doesn’t talk about viable initiatives to safe these kids from falling into the “lost” gap. He spends his efforts on everything else. First it was Healthcare, then the oil spill, then cap and trade. Now its a re-focus on Katrina.

Don’t misunderstand. All these issues matter but poll after poll, survey after survey shows that the number one issue on American hearts and minds is the state of the economy. My guess is that he doesn’t have any real solutions to put forward. The stimulus bill has been an utter failure. He has shut down the few government entities who were providing real jobs (like NASA) and has continued to put regulations on business while refusing to offer relief to what truly drive our economy, small businesses.

Our youth and our future is at stake until DC decides to focus on what really matters, the economy.

Ending the Texas Deficit

You may have heard that the state of Texas has a shortfall in the State budget. The deficit is estimated at $18 Billion. If you hadn’t heard, here is a good summary of the budget deficit and how Texans found out about it. Of course liberals say this proves that Texas’s conservative fiscal policies got them into trouble. Obviously, the cause of the deficit is not conservative policies but the recession. And it will be the conservative policies that save us in the end.

This past week Texas Public Policy Foundation presented their solutions to the House. You can read the actual testimony given to the House Select Committee on Fiscal Stability in this pdf. These ideas are fiscally conservative and also logical. Here are some of the ideas discussed:

  • Adopt a zero-based budgeting process (instead of cutting costs, starting blank and then adding the necessary costs, the most radical of all the suggested ideas and one that has proven to be effective)
  • Eliminate and consolidate unnecessary agencies/programs
  • Prevent tax increases
  • Minimal and predictable regulation
  • Case Study of Texas v. California
  • 10 year economic statistics
  • Adopting a sustainable debt policy
  • Greater government transparency

Other ideas:

  • Greater competition in government contract bidding
  • Allowing the Workforce Commission to issue bonds
  • Taking advantage of the zero-interest loans provided to states with good credit by the federal government

Despite the shortfall in the budget, Texas still has one of the best economies in the nation. Rhetoric on the left tends to accuse Texas of disproving its own taxation choices (no income tax, refusing to raise property taxes and so on). But Texas still has one of the lowest unemployment rates and best real estate markets comparatively. Also this is our first year with a deficit since 2003, having kept a balanced budget the last seven years, not something most states can boast. So while We have a budget shortfall almost as high as California, we have still managed to stay balanced and effective until the recession, and therefore the reduced spending due to the economy forced us to re-evaluate our state spending.

Democrats have used the budget to push the agenda of gubernatorial candidate Bill White. Perry has promised not to raise taxes to cover the shortfall. He has also suggested ten percent cuts across the board. (White reacted to these cuts less than favorably, calling it Soviet Style budget management.) Some of Perry’s criticism goes far all the way back to his refusal stimulus money. This money, the opposition argues, could have stopped the deficit and provided unemployment assistance to Texans. An article by James Quintero, fiscal analyst at the formerly mentioned Texas Public Policy Foundation, on the Americans for Tax Reform website details what extra demands those federal dollars and details some more fiscally responsibly solutions to the deficit.

While the budget deficit in Texas certainly causes concern, this is not a problem we cannot solve. Using the suggested zero-based budgeting procedures, consolidating and eliminating unnecessary expenditures and allows more competition in state contracts we could easily make the cuts that would keep our budget balanced. Any of all of the solutions bullet-pointed above can make the difference. Government needs regular review, duplications, over-spending and unevaluated programs constantly clog the system. A lean, effective government that does not burden its people is the best hope for recovering in our current economy.

The Trials of Transparency

While I disagree with our president on a lot of things, his championing of transparency is something I got behind. I think that we can all agree, across the board that we need more integrity in politics. We need to get behind anything that forces our politicians to be more honest. So when Obama discussed putting bills online and letting the American people in on the process, I was excited and hoped Republicans would get on board in a bipartisan effort to make our government better.

I think the younger generations seem particularly intent on a more open government. In fact, I think that part of the reason Obama appealed to young voters is because we wanted a president we could trust. And many people felt Obama seemed more trustworthy than older politicians (such as our Republican nominee).

However Obama has not come through on his promises about Transparency. In December the White House released the Open Government Directive. April 7th a number of government agencies were supposed to release their data online. Out of 30 agencies only 18 released any data, and only 89 sets of data (counted by the Sunlight Foundation; more information on their efforts here) were released over all. Which is unfortunate. We’re also not seeing the cameras in back rooms, transparency in local offices or any real effort to make our government more honest from the top down. Blame could be shoved onto lots of people but the point is that there’s not much follow-through action from our President.

However, its still worth signing the bi-partisan Public=Online Transparency Petition. Any effort to alert our government that this issue is important and integral to running an efficient American is positive. So take a moment and sign the online petition and put your votes behind Republican candidates who champion transparency.

Don’t forget. Sign the petition!