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By the time this is printed, the votes will have been cast so it will not change any minds, but hopefully it will result in a better understanding of what it will take to get our economy back on track in a responsible way.
Of course the first step will be to get some control over the COVID-19 epidemic. Vaccines and treatments are on the way but nobody with knowledge of the field believes they will be an instant fix. Treatments like the antibody cocktail that stopped the president’s infection from doing serious damage are not easy to manufacture and will be rationed over at least the next year.
Vaccines are not likely to be broadly available until spring and are probably going to be only 50-75 percent effective, meaning you will not be sure you are safe from getting the virus even if you are vaccinated. That means common sense mask wearing, social distancing, testing and contact tracing, the measures that allowed other countries to have some semblance of normal life and much lower death rates, will be necessary.
But the main issue is how we get economic growth back. The president and his supporters maintain that he has done a great job in that regard ... until COVID hit. The truth is gross domestic product grew under his administration at no more than the same levels that it did under President Obama, and that in spite of major tax cuts, massive deregulation and cuts in essential federal programs.
That is the recipe for economic growth pushed by Republicans for decades. The results have been sugar-high economies that have been followed by major recessions, whether because of banking excesses that went unchecked, or cuts to pandemic preparedness that made COVID much worse than it needed to be.
The Wall Street numbers looked good and made the well-off even wealthier. The corporate tax cuts were supposed to go to increase workers’ wages and investment to create more, better jobs. Instead they went to stock buybacks and increased dividend payments which only benefited large stock holders.
But almost half of Americans do not own any stock at all, and another 20-30 percent do not own enough to see them through just one year of job loss and financial hardship. And most job growth that was created was at low wages and in cheap service industries.
Let’s not even talk of the huge spike in the national debt that will come back to haunt us. Or the next major disaster for which we should be preparing — the climate crisis. The cost of disaster relief in America has gone from $178 billion in the 80’s to $275 billion, $518 billion and a whopping $810 billion in the last decade, and 2020 is already the highest year ever after only 9 months. This is the government’s own inflation-adjusted data as yet uncensored. Raking forest floors and burning oil and coal like there is no tomorrow is not going to address this.
The alternative to ginning up economies is to build on a solid foundation for sustainable and high quality long term growth that benefits everyone. That means investments in education, infrastructure, innovation research and basic standards of health and social services. This is what many Republicans like to name-call left wing, socialist, Marxist. But are they really? Do these programs really hurt private enterprise?
If you look around the world at the many countries that do better than we do in international rankings on educational quality, health care costs and outcomes, and general well-being, they also have world-class companies that compete effectively across industries. Half the world’s diabetes treatment is provided by Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, Rapala of Finland is the world leader in fishing lures, Shopify from Canada is the largest enabler of on-line shopping for smaller businesses, Sweden’s IKEA the global leader in houseware retail, cars from Germany, luxury goods from France and on and on.
One reason these companies are so successful is that they do NOT need to be in the business of providing healthcare, education, training and day care. They can concentrate on what they do best — make and sell better products and services. Democratic Party policies are directed at creating such stable foundations for growth.
That is why, according to Wall Street’s Merrill Lynch, economic returns for the top 500 companies in America since World War II have been 15.6 percent under Democrats and 10 percent under Republicans. My hope is that we will demand, from whomever will have won the election, policies that don’t cut corners and look for quick fixes, but have a sustainable approach to creating stable growth that benefits everyone.
— The writer lives in Castleton.