Economic Good Things

Yesterday Congress passed yet another drunken-sailor budget, which would suspend the debt ceiling for another two years and result in an additional $322 billion in spending, ballooning the deficit to $22 trillion dollars.

Not long ago my conservative friends and I took to the streets protesting the unfathomable $16 trillion debt that the federal government had foisted upon our children and grandchildren. Then we got steamrolled by Obama, not exactly a top-drawer economist. Even holding both houses was not enough to stop the spending tsunami, and before you could blink, the Democrat socialist revolution had overtaken Congress.

In an effort to extinguish my “hair on fire” I set out looking for some little rays of economic sunshine among the dark clouds. Here’s what I found:

  • DEREGULATION is driving the economy at an unexpectedly brisk pace. All around I see businesses starting and expanding, construction projects popping up like popcorn, opportunities for workers of all types at premium wage rates, and consumer spending and optimism going through the roof.
  • FOREIGN TRADE POLICIES, TARIFFS AND ALLIANCES – President Trump clearly understands the “art of the deal”, and his push-back against China is bringing positive change. Protests in Hong Kong might drive regime change, or at least policy change. And Trump’s outsized influence on Brexit, Iran, Russia and North Korea all have economic implications. While international trade is not a “zero sum” game, other nations are finally feeling the heat of dealing with an “A-team” on the economic playing field.
  • ENERGY INDEPENDENCE – For a very long time, the USA economy was like many American families – one paycheck away from bankruptcy. At any time a Middle Eastern mullah could shut off the supply of oil, plunging our economy into chaos. That threat is now extinguished.
  • AGENCY REORGANIZATION – Russ Vought and Mick Mulvaney of the OMB are tightening the noose on agency leadership, getting more bang for the taxpayer buck, down-sizing and decentralizing, and updating personnel and procurement procedures. Every day they are changing the government culture to more closely operate like private business.

When Mulvaney was my congressman, we had several discussions about federal spending, with me venting my frustration that the debt was exploding and nobody cares. Mulvaney, always the pragmatist, said, “We can’t fix the deficit and debt by reducing spending. It’s way too late for that. We will have to outgrow it.”

At the time, Mick’s message was not what I wanted to hear. And I still would like to see a more mixed approach: cut spending while the economy is healthy and growing. But the appetite for restraint is just not there. Not with the Democrats and many weak-kneed Republicans in Congress who win re-election by giving away free candy. Not with the president, who had to adopt the same stance to guarantee re-election and time to complete his mission. And frankly, not with the under-informed spoiled-brat public, most of whom pay no federal taxes and whose ranks are swelling every day with immigrants from nations who have never participated in a consumer-driven supply-and-demand economy.

Can our debt keep expanding without consequences? Probably not. But all you can do is all you can do.

I used to employ a business strategy that seemed to work pretty darn well. Every business is segmented into products, or markets, or divisions. Too many executives and managers put all of their energy and focus into the underperforming segments of their businesses, ignoring the segments that are smoking hot and growing. I always promoted the strategy of putting maximum effort and resources into what’s doing well instead of beating your head against the wall trying to fix the losers.

So yes, we had a bad budget deal. Boogers. But if we look closer, there are a lot of “good things” going on.

Seems this worlds got you down
Your feelin’ bad vibrations frown
Well, open your eyes girl, look at me 
I’m gonna show you how it ought to be
We’re gonna’ have a good thing
Such a good thing baby

Good Thing – Paul Revere and the Raiders

In memory of Paul Revere, one of the truly good guys in the history of rock and roll.

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