Last week the National Center for Health Statistics released final birth data for 2018. The verdict is in. Utah’s total fertility rate dropped for the eleventh consecutive year and, for the first time, dropped below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. Utah’s fertility rate now stands at 2.03 births per woman and three states — South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska — have higher fertility rates than Utah.
I served as an associate administrator for public affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the George W. Bush Administration. It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. In its mission to protect human health, the agency regulates every business, household, and government agency in America. Regulation is not for the faint of heart, and that’s why they say your two best days at the EPA are your first and your last!
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?
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.
When I think of the People’s Republic of China, my mind goes to lots of places. I think of communism and the country’s red flag with gold stars. I think of the Olympics, both as a venue and remarkable athletes. I think of rice and tea and even Peking duck (yes, I’ve tried it before). I think of intellectual property disputes, the two-child limit, and the brilliant Shanghai skyline, framed by the waterfront of the Bund. But mostly, I think of the world’s most populous country―approximately 1.4 billion people… about one in every five humans on planet Earth.
With a population like that, there was once a time when China comprised much of the world’s poor people. Today, thanks to the introduction of market reforms, China has moved into the ranks of the global middle class. It’s an international success story, as an estimated 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty over the past four decades.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.