In what's being treated as a big story at Politico this morning, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen tell us that they're lifting their heads out of the Beltway-infighting gutter so they can talk about about some wonderful, fresh, big-picture policy ideas -- ideas that would not merely extricate us from our current crises, but would lead to an economy that thrives. They're doing this with the help of a panel of experts:
Most politicians in the most powerful positions in Washington agree in private that there are a half-dozen or so big things they could and should do that could put a rocket booster on the U.S. economy -- but they are too timid to say it in public.A "rocket booster" for the economy? Wow! Ideas people are "too timid" to talk about in public? Give us the inside skinny! "Big things" we can do -- if only we have the courage? Where do I sign up?
This is the clear takeaway from conversations we have had over the past three months with top lawmakers, officials, their senior aides and the CEOs who advise and lobby all of them. Many of the conversations were private but many were not.
Alas, the imaginations on display are so impoverished that the "big things" being proposed are ... mostly the same tired, eat-your-vegetables, shaft-the-general-public ideas we're always getting from our political and fat-cat betters:
The current tax-and-spending debate only flirts with what these insiders say needs to be done. Instead, top White House and congressional leaders talk privately of the need for tax reform that goes way beyond individuals and rates; much deeper Social Security and Medicare changes than currently envisioned....You see where this is going.
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said long-term commitments to measures such as tax reform ... would provide a "certainty premium" that would help bring corporate cash off the sidelines....Can we please acknowledge the likely consequences of a thorough tax-code overhaul? Loopholes of all kinds, we're told, would be put on the table -- yours, mine, Mitt Romney's, JPMorgan Chase's. But armies of lawyers and lobbyists will have a place at the table throughout the overhaul process, with the sole mission of protecting the loopholes JPMorgan and Mitt Romney love most. You and I won't have a similar army. When the dust settles, we'll learn just how many of their loopholes magically survived, and how many of ours didn't -- and they'll also get rate cuts. (We'll get rate cuts, too, I guess -- we're always told that everyone should -- but ours won't make up for what we've lost.)
It starts with taxes.... top Republicans and Democrats agree the best thing for the economy in the long-term is to simplify the Tax Code, reduce rates and end loopholes -- not just for individuals but also for corporations....
Tax reform would raise more money to pay down the debt and help create the "certainty premium" Moynihan spoke of.
And, of course, we have to give up a wee bit more to load the fuel onto this rocket of an economy:
Nearly every lawmaker and staffer will tell you privately that they know the Social Security retirement age needs to go up, the rate of growth of benefits needs to be slowed on a sliding scale that protects the poor, the cap on income subjected to the tax that finances the program needs to rise and the rich should get smaller or no payout from the program.There's this, and there's, well, "Drill, baby, drill!":
They will also tell you Medicare, which is on pace to be insolvent in 12 years, is a much, much bigger mess.... Ultimately, many Americans will have to get less generous benefits that start to kick in at an older age -- and those changes need to start a decade from now.
The explosion of domestic natural gas and oil production is arguably the biggest overlooked story of the past year. The International Energy Agency now projects the United States could blow by the Saudis by 2020 to become the leading oil producer in the world. The freshest sign: Monthly oil production in September hit a 15-year high. The reason is simple: the explosion of “fracking” to extract energy from abundant shale rock foundations.Yes, no doubt. But, again, rocket fuel, baby! (Maybe we can use the drinking water as rocket fuel.) Just give up your loopholes, and some of your Social Security benefits, and some of your Medicare benefits, and clean drinking water ... and we'll be on our way to Easy Street!
No doubt, there are environmental concerns, especially for drinking water.
Remember, this isn't intended to be a "hard choices" kind of piece. This is Politico being optimistic. This isn't Politico saying, "Do these painful things, and eventually we'll see a light at the end of the tunnel." VandeHei and Allen are telling us that this is the light at the end of the tunnel.
Which it is, of course, for the fat cats and most of the pols. They know they're in clover if they just break us -- get us used to the idea that we have to have to accept less, while they get more.
You want my plan for rocket-propelling the economy? Let me quote Charlie Pierce's First Rule of Economics:
Fk The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.Act according to that. That would be rocket fuel. People can't buy your stuff, fat cats, if they've got no money to buy it with. Solve that problem, and that would give you a real friggin' "certainty premium."