Category Archives: Blog

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; the Trump and Obama economies are surprisingly similar

Originally published in the Deseret News.

After the Iowa caucus mishap, a friend of mine tweeted: “The Iowa caucuses were a perfect symbolic start to a Presidential campaign where Democrats will pretend that results don’t matter and @realDonaldTrump will focus over and over on his results.”

I thought it was a clever tweet for two reasons. First, the Iowa caucuses were a disaster and a worthy target for criticism. Second, a common refrain about President Trump is disdain for his tone and character, and enthusiasm for his results. After all, aren’t we experiencing the longest sustained economic expansion in U.S. history?

Indeed, we are, but the U.S. economic expansion is more than a Donald Trump story, just like the Great Recession was more than a George W. Bush story. Economic expansions, like the current cycle, often cross over presidential terms. Presidents also exert less control over the economy than many people imagine.

Moody’s analytics recently did an interesting side-by-side comparison of economic indicators. They compared the first three years of the Trump administration with the last three years of the Obama administration. The results are fascinating. It turns out, with a few notable exceptions, the economic performance of both presidents over the past six years is surprisingly similar.

Continue reading Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; the Trump and Obama economies are surprisingly similar

Complexity of tax reform may be beyond citizen referendums

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I love to shop at Harmons grocery stores. Like so many others, I enjoy the salad bar, homemade soups and salsas, extraordinary cheese selection, high quality meats and fresh produce. They are very good at what they do, and I love that they are locally owned.

Because I count on Harmons to provide groceries for my family, it gave me pause when they got involved with tax policy. Even under the best circumstances, tax policy is complex and difficult to address in representative government; it’s almost impossible to address at a checkout stand.

Continue reading Complexity of tax reform may be beyond citizen referendums

Tsunami trends to keep an eye on in 2020

Originally published in the Deseret News.

When a pebble falls into a shallow pool it creates a series of ever-widening circles cascading toward the edge. What was once smooth, still and stable changes to be undulating and unstable. Change the pebble to a boulder and a tsunami occurs.

The new year will bring plenty of pebbles, but will it also bring boulder-sized disturbances? I took a peek inside my crystal ball to find tsunami trends worth keeping an eye on in 2020.

Continue reading Tsunami trends to keep an eye on in 2020

Christmas reminder: Success in life depends on human kindness

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Sheep and Goats, by Utah artist Kathy Peterson

I will be a recipient of a beautiful painting this Christmas painted by Utah artist Kathy Peterson. The painting, titled “Goats and Sheep,” depicts five goats and six sheep in a green pasture. Like all works of art, the painting leaves room for extensive interpretation. It’s precisely the interpretation of the painting that drew me to it.

Continue reading Christmas reminder: Success in life depends on human kindness

Utah’s fertility rate falls below replacement level

Originally published in the Deseret News.

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.

Continue reading Utah’s fertility rate falls below replacement level

Let’s take a break to be grateful

Originally published in Utah Business.

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!

Continue reading Let’s take a break to be grateful

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?

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

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.

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

The danger of the escalating trade war

Originally published in Utah Business.

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. 

Continue reading The danger of the escalating trade war

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.