Confession time: I hate thinking about money. I hate thinking about the details of investing and taxes and really, generally, anything that’s got to do with my lifelong enemies: numbers. I don’t think that makes me an unusual person or even a deeply flawed person. Indeed, in most ways, I think that makes me a healthy person. In any event, I’m pretty sure that if nothing else, it makes me a typical person. Still, even healthy and widespread habits (of body or mind) can be overdone. You can exercise yourself to death and you can "not worry" yourself right into poverty and all the evils that come with a state of financial embarrassment.
The last week on Wall Street has had a way of re-focusing the mind on the details of one’s financial future--rather like the proverbial two-by-four across the forehead might have a way of waking a person out of pleasant slumber. But leaving aside the details of this or that investment and bromide filled promises to "stimulate" the economy, the big picture remains that economies and markets cycle, things (particularly housing prices) were puffed up, and all the old rules about having appreciation for the real value of your dollar will always apply--no matter how creative your financing is.
But given this reassertion of the old rules of economy into the forefront of our minds, which presidential candidates are best equipped to help us see the bigger picture in these times? We know what the Dems are going to say and it’s certainly going to be something that enhances their power and our dependence on government. Steve Forbes, on the other hand, thinks Rudy Giuliani is exactly the man with exactly the proposals that will help Americans understand that "self-government, not centralized government, makes America great." His combination of tax cuts and tax reform with strong incentives for middle class savings is, indeed, a breath of fresh air. Much, much more needs to be said to Americans about savings these days. Conservatives have been derelict in neglecting that aspect of conservatism (at least as long as I can remember). Tax rebates may get the economy going for a short hop . . . but all we’re really doing is hoping that people spend more money they may not need to spend. Spending is important to keep the economy moving. But savings and investments are important to keep the economy healthy in bad times and to keep the people self-governing rather than dependent.
This article also argues that Rudy has an opening in tonight’s debate in Boca Raton to show his strength on this issue against McCain, especially, but also Romney who is likely to be mired in detail. If Giuliani can keep his message on the economy and taxes focused on fundamentals that are clearly understood and appeal to an old-fashioned sense of justice and economy, it could help him. Also see Michael Barone’s very good piece on the ways in which our understanding of the state of the economy has become very partisan based instead of experience based. This has to do with that generational shift we keep talking about. The Depression is less and less a factor. The 70s and disasters of the Carter administration are becoming a dim memory. The median birth year for today’s voter is 1963. In the end, he argues, the realities of this economy call for new and clear thinking not old partisan prescriptions.