How the Utah Legislature’s tax proposal will assist the most vulnerable

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Approximately 9% of Utahns live in poverty. Many others struggle to meet basic subsistence needs. The reasons for their financial struggles vary, but all Utahns benefit when people live in a stable and healthy environment. The question is, what is the best way to help?

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Salt Lake City’s mayoral race has been a refreshing class act

Originally published in the Deseret News.

There’s not much inspiration in politics these days. This year, Utahns witnessed a rare exception: the Salt Lake City mayor’s race. The race hit the mark of substance, civility and class. Both state Sen. Luz Escamilla and Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall campaigned in Utah’s capital city with grace, dignity and competence. We are all better for their leadership and example.

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Remarks at Titan Event

Note: I recently received an honor and spoke at the South Valley Chamber Titan Awards Dinner. After thanking my co-award winners, parents, in-laws, children, husband, mentors, and community leaders I shared these thoughts.

I’m a Murray resident and I spend a lot of time along the Jordan River Parkway. It’s a haven for birdlife. Near my home is the confluence of Little Cottonwood Creek with the Jordan River. It creates marvelous marshlands that most of the year are teeming with ducks, geese, grebes and, for part of the year, Great American white pelicans.

It’s very common when you’re on the Parkway, especially this time a year when there are few, if any leaves on the tree, to see a bird perched on the very highest branch watching what happens below.

It’s from that highest perch that you can see how everything comes together – the river, the shore, the plant and animal life, and people.

My training as an economist and time in public policy, locally and nationally, has provided a perch for me to observe the inner workings of this community and the broader trends affecting our world.

I’d like to share with you three observations I see from that perch.

First, the pace of change is accelerating and it is difficult to keep up. It’s frazzling our nerves and detracting from our peace of mind. With this in mind…don’t lose sight of the basics:

  • A good book,
  • A walk with your dog,
  • A real face to face conversation,
  • A listening ear for a friend,
  • 24 hours without a smart phone, and
  • Faith in a living God.

Second, not everyone is rewarded by this economy. We need to help those around us who are hurting. Best-selling author Michael Lewis writes:

“Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.”

Let’s actively seek out and help the unlucky among us.

Finally, I am inspired by the grandeur of our mountains and the solitude of our red rock. I feel a greater obligation to honor our plant, to love our land, and beautify our surroundings. The gift of creation requires our stewardship.

Mother Earth has given us much. Let’s give her something back.

Thank you for this honor.

Democratic presidential candidates seem oblivious to how taxes, government spending impact private economy

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I watched with interest the Democratic presidential debate this week. Twelve candidates lined the stage at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, to make their case to lead our nation. The debate covered lots of topics, including segments on foreign policy, health care, the middle class, gun control and more. But what really captured my interest was the dialogue concerning tax and expenditure policies. It’s not clear to me that any of the candidates (with the possible exceptions of entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar) understand how taxes and government spending impact the private economy.

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Utah’s growth challenges are piling up. It’s time to start thinking long term.

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt tells a story of being stuck in traffic on I-15 and feeling frustrated. He said to himself, “I thought we fixed this!” Upon further reflection he remembered the I-15 reconstruction during his administration was projected to forestall congestion for about 15 years. Then a news flash hit him … it’s been more than 15 years!

Continue reading Utah’s growth challenges are piling up. It’s time to start thinking long term.

Uncertainty Creates a Greater Risk of Recession

Originally published in Utah Business.

Uncertainty. It’s something economists think about a lot. And for good reason―economies rise and fall based on the confidence of consumers and producers.

I recently read an economic summary distributed by an investment banking firm that quoted analyst Nancy A. Bush. She said: “The watchword at present is “uncertainty”–uncertainty about trade, uncertainty about the strength of economic growth, uncertainty about the start date of the next recession, and political uncertainty galore.”

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Rising debt is the biggest problem facing America

Originally published in the Deseret News.

There is a memorable line in Ernest Hemingway’s book “The Sun Also Rises,” where a character says. “How did you go bankrupt?” The second person replies, “Two ways, gradually, then suddenly.”

The response provides potent imagery for America’s debt problem. Each day we borrow more, and our debt rises. We are doing fine now — low inflation, low interest rates and full employment. But there’s more to the story. Bad things happen gradually before they happen suddenly.

This, in a nutshell, is America’s borrowing problem.

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Utah has more millennials than any other state

Originally published in Utah Business.

Utah’s millennial population represents approximately 23 percent of the state (726,000 people). Roughly one in every four Utahns is a millennial―a  higher percentage than in any other state. As a cohort, Utah’s millennial population is 20 percent larger than the state’s Gen-X population and 39 percent larger than the state’s baby boomer population. Which begs the question: How does Utah’s large millennial population impact Utah?

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Salt Lake City belongs to all Utahns

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Next week Salt Lake City voters will select their final two candidates for mayor. Meanwhile, the 94% of Utahns who live outside the capital city and who don’t have a vote will watch as finalists emerge. Why should all Utahns care about this choice?

I have a simple answer: Salt Lake City belongs to all Utahns.

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Parade for change

Originally published in Utah Business.

Bake the cake. Light the candles. The US celebrates 10 years of economic expansion this summer, making it the longest expansion on record, boding good news for our nation and state. There’s just one problem… we haven’t made much progress on the critical issues important to our long-term economy and its prosperity, leaving many to wonder how can we use this time of plenty to make needed reforms.

I’m fond of the saying, “The best time to fix the roof is before it starts raining.” During good economic times, it’s smart to address difficult issues such as entitlement reform, immigration policy, and infrastructure investment. But where to start?

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Writings and Reflections