Category Archives: Deseret News Columns

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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