Smith: The agenda: Economic growth badly needed

Smith: The agenda: Economic growth badly needed

December 16th, 2013 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Our nation's economy has been in a downward cycle since late 2007.

The last seven years have been marked by the regulation-created housing bubble that burst after the subprime lending crisis, where those who could not carry the burden of a loan received lending due to lowered standards resulting in high-risk mortgage investments and ultimately a devaluing of all commercial and residential real estate.

Then, taxpayer-funded bailouts propped up major banks which had made these risky loans. This, in turn, yielded a freeze of capital that hampered investment and the expansion of our economy.

The uncertainties of lending, access to lines of credit and the "Affordable Care Act" have impacted businesses large and small and roiled the jobs market.

Unemployment in December 2007 was 5 percent and doubled to 10 percent in October 2009. The current report of 7 percent unemployment masks a labor market that has reduced the number of working adults to levels not seen since the "stagflation" of Jimmy Carter's administration.

The "underemployed" are not counted in the 7 percent. Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report noted on PBS' "The McLaughlin Group" that 88 percent of jobs created in 2013 through October were part-time jobs, historic by every measurement available.

Food stamp participation has doubled since 2008 and a surge in disability claims parallels the high unemployment and underemployed trends.

The answer, according to Barack Obama, the Democrats and other "progressives" is to raise the minimum wage and expand programs that function as wealth redistribution in an attempt to address inequality of income.

While a state-controlled economy and the idea of government-induced redistribution of wealth have been discredited, that is exactly the policy being offered as a solution by too many in our government "leadership."

Have you ever heard the phrase, "A rising tide lifts all boats?"

It was President John F. Kennedy who proclaimed this well-known reference to the benefit of a healthy economy -- one with expanding businesses and companies where workers of all skills are needed and employed.

But do you know the rest of the quote from President Kennedy?

Here's the complete statement: "No American is ever made better off by pulling a fellow American down, and every American is made better off whenever any one of us is made better off. A rising tide raises all boats."

A dependent class finding its sustenance from government is politically advantageous to some; it's destructive to those seeking to be independent, pursuing competition and success.

Another quote penned by a Christian minister echoes the same theme: "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. ... You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

To address "income inequality" the navigation must be toward higher seas of private-sector job growth and commercial expansion. Right now, we're splashing in a mud puddle with some slinging mud while others are trying to get out of the mire.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.