Irwin Stelzer: Will Obama's fairer and greener nation flourish?
Comment of the Day

January 28 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

Irwin Stelzer: Will Obama's fairer and greener nation flourish?

This is an interesting column by the business adviser and director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, published by The Sunday Times (UK) (may require subscription registration, PDF also provided). Here is a sample
Those who have been complaining about uncertainty, and its negative effects on economic growth, need complain no more. You don't have to read between the lines of the president's second inaugural address, or consult your favourite pundit, to know where we are headed: you need only to have listened to or read the address itself.

Times have changed: our "founding principles" must meet "new challenges". That means a greater reliance on "collective action" - government - to ensure "a shrinking few" do not claim a disproportionate share of the nation's wealth at the expense of a struggling middle class and the poor. What the president's inaugural address lacked in the grandeur of many of his predecessors it amply made up for with candour.

Top of the agenda is reducing income and wealth inequality by raising taxes on upper income families and eliminating some of the deductions from which they benefit. Obama believes what economists of the left have been telling him, that inequality is not only unfair, it also stifles economic growth by denying middle class and poor families incomes they would spend and the richer would not. Never mind whether this makes sense: it is a position increasingly trumpeted by respected academic and activist economists, and is attractive in an era of frozen middle-class incomes.

Then comes restructuring the energy sector as part of a fight to prevent climate change, the existence of which the president believes is beyond question. This will require more subsidies for solar energy and wind farms, both of which have proved wildly uneconomic, and the creation of barriers to the development of the nation's abundant fossil fuel resources. All to be achieved by administrative regulations rather than congressional approval.

As for the deficit, worry not. We can afford existing programmes that protect children and the elderly without over-borrowing and defaulting on our mounting debts. Which is certainly true, since if investors decide that they are no longer willing to lend us $40 for every $100 we spend, we can run the printing presses, and pay off our debts with a depreciated currency. That would continue the huge wealth transfer now under way from creditors - savers and investors, victims of the zero-interest policy being pursued by the Federal Reserve Board - to debtors who will repay creditors with cheap money.

Before you view this as an attack on the president, let me assure you it is not. The president's plan to transform the economy is coherent, and its goal of increasing the role of government clearly stated. It is attractive to a majority of voters, some pursuing self-interest, others believing that Obama's America will be a kinder, gentler place.

David Fuller's view The USA needs some robust economic growth to reinvigorate its economy and control runaway government debt. During the next few years competitive energy costs will most likely be the key factor in America's economic performance. The USA currently has a huge lead in fracking technology and development, which the oil and gas companies pioneered with little help from the US Government.

As a consequence, US energy costs are generally much more competitive than what we currently see in Europe and most of Asia. This is encouraging both domestic and foreign companies to increase their manufacturing presence in the USA, reversing the previous trend of many years. If US energy companies are allowed to not only maintain but also enhance this advantage, which they can certainly do given the country's abundant supplies, America's economy will strengthen. This would increase job creation and give the country a chance to reduce its debt, given the political will to do so.

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