The Most Important Part of an Economic Stimulus

All the energy and political chips being spent on economic stimulus packages leaves me cold.  Why can’t we just start with some common sense principles, such as making sure it involves ZERO additional spending by the feds?  If you change the rules of the government that helped created this economic mess with rules, you can get plenty of people to start doing things to make money and jobs and taxes with their own private capital.

Here are some givens I would like to start with.  

1. More debt is a bad thing for governments and for people.  Let’s start with ideas that don’t involve the government giving anything to anyone but involve all of us making more things.  If we can get rid of government limits on doing that, then people will start economic enterprises on their own with their own money. Since all of that produces taxable income, it will also mean more tax revenue for Uncle Sam.

2. Taking money from one group and distributing it to other groups doesn’t accomplish much (think of this as the family where dad takes money from half the kids and gives to the other half of the kids.  There is no net increase in wealth or income for the group and the group still suffers).  A family in economic trouble (America) needs more money brought in…not just the income redistribution that made Joe the Plumber famous.

3. 12 % of America’s GDP is from export, and we are still very good at making things and the world still buys our stuff (just not enough of it)

4. Energy is a key component of our economy.  Buying it from others sends our money overseas.  Making our own generates jobs here and keeps our cash here. This isn’t rocket science.

5. Just like a family, we need to generate more NET income for our country, and that takes more than redistributing slices of a shrinking pie based on your political preferences (memo to the new President).  

Here’s my economic stimulus idea:

1. Bring foreign profits of big American companies home (voluntarily) by offering them low taxation…if they bring it back NOW…and put it in the economy somewhere (and not in the corporate equivalent of a mattress).  The only “loss” incurred here would be government “losing” tax money they’re not getting now while those profits reside in a bank outside the United States. It was done once in 2005.

2. Sell excess public lands (no parks or monuments).  The federal government owns too much land (and so do states, counties and cities).  Selling it into private hands would give government more money to meet the needs of its people, relieve it of responsibility for that land, and the new land owners would presumably (econ 101) put it to some use to make money (jobs, taxes etc)

3. Get the government out of all businesses it doesn’t need to be in (arts endowment would be the first thing to put a bullet in).

4. Drill for oil (get supplies ready for the inevitable increase in oil) (see below).  I know that everyone now sneers at $50 a barrel now that we have seen $150…but every fifty bucks not send to OPEC is an economic stimulus for America.

5. Drill for natural gas (offer low cost leases to any company willing to start drilling for more within 12 monthsor 18 months).  Right now, companies lease land from the feds for a rate and then pay 15 percent of the value of any oil they find.  Let’s cut that to 5 percent (for example) for any gushers brought in during the first 12 months (again, leave the numbers to the experts).  

6. Dig for coal (and use it).  Let’s do it smart and clean…but let’s clear the decks of government rules that keep this from happening (and lets cut the rate of taxation or lease fees)

7. Grow food for export (and farm all the land we can, ending the idiot subsidies that prevent more crops from being grown).  Let’s use our technology to maximize crops (genetic engineering) and sell all we can to the rest of the world.  It ain’t high tech — so some won’t find it sexy — but it will help pay the bills

8. Cut trees.  One way to make this happen would be for the government to cut the rate of severance taxes it takes.  It would boost the economies of many states without the government “spending” anything but trees we all own and can replant and grow more of.

9. Put those laid off auto workers to work making drilling equipment (in the shut down auto factories), mining equipment (for coal), and logging equipment.     

10. Allow private companies to begin building fifty nuke plants…with a special law that keeps court challenges from stopping them

11. EZ Verify for all workers and jobs in America.  Make EZ Verify that great free service that enables employers to check quickly and easily on the immigration status of prospective employees for all non emergency medical care.  EZ Verify for all public universities. EZ Verify for all social services (other than life saving emergencies).  Also, have drug testing for all unemployment pay, and non emergency social services.  Check of social security number required to transfer cash out of the country

12.  Require that all public universities comb through their curricula and begin eliminating everything that is the least bit questionable.  Same for all publicly funded grants and tuition (Pell Grants, etc.)  During the fat times, the economic engine that is America may have been able to subsidize graduate philosophy degrees, or minority studies, or women’s studies or (with apologies to Heinlein) “beetle tracking and button sorting or better ways to make bayberry candles.”  Let’s start turning out more doctors and nurses, engineers, architects, chemists and programmers.

13. Scrap the Yucca Mountain site and begin immediate construction of a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility (or two).  Put it at Hanford — and maybe Oak Ridge. Let a private company fund its construction, with a commitment that the winner of the bid will be able to run it, and a commitment to reprocess all fuel now in storage from existing nuclear power plants…and be first in line to bid on reprocessing from new plants.  Site prep alone would probably take years…with design proceeding at the same time…with a firm date for building the plant by a time certain.

Hey, this shouldn’t be rocket science. Government is the last place to look for common sense.  But maybe they could actually absorb some before ruining what’s left of our economy.