Friday, November 13, 2009

Our Behind-the-curve President

Oh Goody. Faced with rising unemployment, President Obama is going to hold a "jobs summit" next month.

Obama said the White House forum will gather CEOs, small business owners, economists, financial experts and representatives from labor unions and nonprofit groups "to talk about how we can work together to create jobs and get this economy moving again."

Usually, Mr. President, it works the other way around. First the economy gets moving, and then employers start to create new jobs. Then we get together and talk about it.

But Democrats can't wait. They are talking about Stimulus 2.0 to be announced at the State of the Union in January. Writes James Pethokoukis:

How much money are we talking about? Alec Phillips of Goldman Sachs calls $250 billion over three years a “conservative” estimate. And what might be in the bill? Look for more highway spending, more aid to state and local governments and some sort of business hiring tax credit.

I'll tell you what I think. I think the president is way behind the curve. He's wasted his entire first year priming the pump for Democrats and pushing unpopular programs that the American people don't want. Now all of a sudden he's worried that the economy is going to be hurting Democrats in 2010. Not to mention 2012.

Well, it's about time that the president and his party got with the program.

The Democrats and their willing accomplices in the media have spent the last generation sneering at the common-sense economic policies of the Republicans. They don't want to listen when Republican presidents lower tax rates. The don't want to hear about the damage caused by meddling with regulations, subsidies, and cheap credit. They don't care about the simple weight of government that hinders all productive effort.

Well now we are in a serious recession. Now it's time for serious policy to get the economy moving. Now Democrats need real economic ideas instead of cheap talking points. But they are politicians. They want a cheap fix so they can go back to politics as usual in a year or two.

Here's an example of the mess we are in--because of Democratic programs. For the poor, tax rates are about 100 percent. Huh? Check out the Taxprof Blog. He's got a chart of pre-tax against post-tax income for a family of three.

It shows income after taxes and transfers as a function of earned income. Notice that as earned income rises from about $15,000 to $30,000, income after taxes and transfers is roughly flat. Indeed, it could even fall. The bottom line: If you are poor, the government is inadvertently ensuring that you have little incentive to try to improve your condition.

In other words, up until about $40,000 of earnings, you face a marginal tax rate of 100%. As you earn more, you lose benefits from the government that roughly match your additional earned income.

Conservatives and Republicans have been whining about this for decades. Even liberal economists have got into the game. They call it The Poverty Trap. But they don't do anything about it.

Well, now it's gut-check time. The president needs some serious policy. But he has a problem. He leads a party that has refused to get serious for a generation or more.

Are you feeling confident that the nation is in good hands? Or do you think that the president is way behind the curve--on this and a lot of other things?

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