As a business owner I’m enthusiastic about the idea of government policies that promote economic growth. But I’m disappointed to hear the term “pro-growth” used as a label for policies that reduce taxes, restrict social programs, and reject the Affordable Care Act. I’d like to see the country step back from the strong ideological rhetoric we’ve heard lately about the role of government and be open-minded about how to promote growth and prosperity.
To me, pro-growth policies include:
- Ensuring economic mobility for the broadest possible swath of the population
- Encouraging immigration of hard-working people
- Making sure that basic needs, e.g., shelter, food, health care are met
- Investing in education
- Establishing and maintaining a robust, dependable system of governance
- Ensuring personal freedom
- Keeping taxes relatively low and progressive
We should be willing to challenge ourselves on these points and to acknowledge when we don’t live up to our ideals. And although we have no need to blindly copy what other countries do, we should be open to benchmarking ourselves and to considering best practices of others.
If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll admit a few unpleasant things:
- There are significant barriers to economic mobility, and those barriers are getting higher
- Immigrants –especially well educated ones– have been the key to innovation and job growth, and that we are making the US less hospitable to immigrants at the same time other countries are doing more to woo them
- We are needlessly stingy and insufficiently empathetic with the provision of social services such as food stamps
- The states that invest in education have a higher skilled, higher income workforce than those that don’t –and that the higher taxes needed to pay for that investment are dollars well spent
- That the willingness to play chicken with the debt limit and shut down the government are a great way to destroy value in the economy
- That our personal freedoms and way of life are under threat as an over-reaction to 9/11
- That the tax system rewards those at the top of the income pyramid and punishes the lower middle class
We should have a more open and honest discussion about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Some demonize it as a “job killer.” But from where I sit it’s more likely to be a job creator. In particular it increases labor market flexibility by making it easier for people to quit their jobs without fear of losing their insurance, and it decreases the number of people who will be bankrupted by medical bills. Small businesses are exempt from the employer mandate and receive subsidies if they do want to offer insurance.
This is a longer discussion, but one I invite others to participate in. Instead of attacking the law, it would be more interesting to hear about how it could be improved or at least about proposed policies that could be evaluated in terms of how well they deliver.
October 21, 2013