Friday, July 16, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Whatever works

As we hurdle towards an uncertain economic recovery, policymakers in Washington, D.C. have formed two camps, roughly delineated along party lines: those who believe an extension of Bush-era tax cuts will stimulate economic activity and those who think continued federal spending is the only way to ensure against a dreaded double-dip recession.

Since this is a column, which generally consists of my opinion on developments of interest to Southwest Washington’s business community, one might wonder what camp I belong to.

The quick answer, for me, is neither.

There’s an economic case to be made for each policy position. As a newspaper editor in New York City, I penned editorials slamming then newly-appointed Gov. David Paterson’s decision in late 2008 to institute what he called a “millionaire’s” tax – a levy which actually included those making $250,000 a year or more, including many small business owners already struggling through the worst recession in 60 years.

On the federal level, though President George W. Bush’s tax cuts have been demonized by many on the left, there is a case to be made that key aspects of his policy, such as the temporary elimination of the estate tax, have been a contributing factor in terms of business growth.

But there’s also a case to be made for increased government spending in times of economic distress.

Whatever one’s feeling about the $787 billion federal stimulus bill, it would be the height of folly if Vancouver, Clark County and the rest of Washington did not try to get as big a piece of the federal funding pie as possible – especially given the estimated 13,000 state residents who exhausted their full 99 weeks of jobless benefits this month.

And yet despite the desperate need, I recently spoke to one candidate for statewide office who promised to vote against any bill – regardless of benefit in terms of jobs created or tax revenue generated – that involved the use of federal stimulus funds.

In response, on behalf of struggling small business owners, idled contractors and the thousands of unemployed, I say when it comes to our economy, I ascribe to no party; no partisan ideology holds my interest.

I belong to neither camp.

The America in which I grew up eschewed extremes of right or left. Instead, our philosophy, if indeed you could call it one, was this: “Whatever works.”

If tax cuts represent our best chance for prosperity, so be it. If stimulus means more employed workers – show me the way. And if the more likely scenario of a mix of both tax incentives and government spending is the best option, then I’m all for it.

Because whatever works, works.


Anonymous said...

Taking the money from the citizens and giving it to the govt cant be a good idea. Of course we want our share of 787 Billion, because it was our $$$$ to begin with! Some of our reps get credit for getting some of the money to come back home. They should get negative credit for taking it to begin with! Or borrowing from our grandchildren. Government is a least a big part of the problem. Redistribution?