Komline: Economic recovery requires discipline and practicality

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Patti Komline, a Republican representative to the Vermont House who lives in Dorset.

Over the last few days I’ve been reflecting on my lukewarm disappointment with regard to Mitt Romney’s loss. I’ve also been asked many times for my thoughts regarding the future of the Republican Party in Vermont.

Nationally, I believe we are in a decline of our own making and neither presidential candidate can turn the economy around. Perhaps we’ll sink faster with President Obama but either way we’re going down. A friend said it best, after the Titanic hit the iceberg, changing captains wouldn’t have made a difference. Improving our economy will take some major buy-ins from the public.

America needs to go on a fiscal diet. (Americans need to go on a food diet too, but that is discussion for another time.) When you put on too much weight you need to decrease calories and increase exercise. Well, we need to decrease our budget and increase our taxes — at the same time. Liberals will balk at the idea of budget cuts and conservatives will take a strong
stand against increased taxes. Everyone will yell and scream and the politicians will back off making tough decisions because they won’t be re-elected if they do.

We spent ourselves into this mess and it is time to accept the consequences. Unfortunately the public isn’t very good at facing this reality and we lack the discipline to withstand “short term pain for long term gain.” One only has to look at the situation in Europe in the wake of their austerity measures to see how well received this would be. I doubt either party will do what is necessary and partisans will point fingers but in truth, we are all to blame and if we stood ready to clean up our mess, elected officials would take the steps necessary to address our deficit, which would go a long way towards creating a better future for our children. We owe them that.

Another aspect of our struggling economy, which we hear about ad nauseum from politicians, centers on creating jobs. This recession has landed us in a place of less job need. People were laid off and businesses found they could get by with fewer employees. Some struggling businesses also abuse the willingness of young people to work as interns for little or no money in the hopes of procuring jobs. (Also a topic for another day, but I do think that this is as much a travesty as our illegal worker issue.) In years past young people could graduate with a degree in liberal arts or other esoteric majors and find career path employment. Now, these graduates are saddled with college debt and stuck with minimum wage jobs. This “recession generation” is part of the 47 percent that was so in-artfully stated. I could forgive Gov. Romney for the slight but I hear others pick up and defend this statement, which makes me cringe.

Many would be thrilled to move out of the category of the working poor. I hope the resilience of youth will stave off their despair because if that sets in we are all in serious trouble. How do we address this challenge?

We start by encouraging high school graduates to opt for studies in technically specific areas. Life has changed and receiving a degree in Ancient Egypt may have to be put aside by the reality that a nursing degree is more practical. Colleges have to suck it up and teach classes that hone real life job skills.

We start by encouraging high school graduates to opt for studies in technically specific areas. Life has changed and receiving a degree in Ancient Egypt may have to be put aside by the reality that a nursing degree is more practical. Colleges have to suck it up and teach classes that hone real life job skills. A professor might really want to teach the History of Landscape Architecture to an accounting major but electives (which are required too) should be more realistic. Making these practical decisions are the responsibility of individuals.

Here in Vermont our government can also step up. We need to address the “Poverty Cliff,” which discourages people from becoming financially independent. And we must do better at job training and placement for those struggling to make ends meet. Giving people hope and direction will empower them to take control of their lives. We should also think creatively
with regard to job creation and engage young people to help us. Innovation is our future and these very people will get us there.

The Vermont Republican Party needs to realize that many people are struggling and need help. Some game the system but there are more people who want desperately to be part of the 53 percent. To denigrate them is shameful. The GOP also needs to accept the fact that the majority of people in this state are socially liberal. The party ignores this at their peril. But Vermont Republicans aren’t the only ones in denial. The Vermont Democratic Party needs to believe that businesses are struggling and government should be making it less onerous for them to thrive. Regulations, taxes and restrictions should be kept to a minimum so they can grow and expand their workforce. You can say Vermont is good for business or you can say it’s bad. Before people choose to move their business here they look at a spreadsheet and their bottom line, not at partisan rhetoric.

Have we truly hit our economic iceberg? Nationally, we need to get on our fiscal scale, takes a good long look and decide that now is the time to do something about our expanding deficit, and young people need to accept the fact that they have to seek an education which prepares them for real jobs. Within Vermont I hope the Democratic Party doesn’t get so carried away with their huge majority that they become deaf to those who might be raising legitimate concerns and the Republican Party needs to open their eyes and ears to Vermont’s priorities. Hope and Change, what are the chances?

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  • Rilla Murray

    While I agree with Komline that there is plenty of pain to go around here, I disagree with the way she frames one of the avenues out of the mess. “Liberal Arts” and “Ancient Egypt” vs.. Technical, job-specific education fails to recognize what is currently missing regardless of major. And it’s absence is killing us. Critical thinking and the ability to express opinions civilly and based on reason is what we need in young people (and a lot of the public of all ages). Those skills have most often been acquired through the study of art and ideas, history, literature and science. They could be incorporated into any and all programs of study and should be. The last thing we need to do is discourage young people from following their dreams while learning to think. Imagine…we could have real policy debates, civil neighborhood discussions, an engaged instead of a reactive and disenchanted electorate.

  • Patti Komline is absolutely correct – we need to raise taxes and reduce government spending.

    Rilla Murray is absolutely correct – we as a population truly need the general (ie liberal) arts as much as we need the technological specifics because technology is extremely complex and tightly intertwined with everything else.

    I would add (and hopefully be just as absolutely correct) that we need to have our political conversations start with the acceptance that both “we” and “I” are on an equal footing. Society could never exist without individuals, and there is not a single individual in existence who doesn’t rely on society.

  • In a totally different vein I think Ms Komline has overlooked something that should well illustrate the decline and hopefully eventual obliteration of today’s Republican Party: in 2008 your organization tried to foist Sarah Palin on the United States of America; and in 2012 you tried again with Mitt Romney.

    A pair of incompetents who shared as their only political offering an uncanny willingness to lie about any and everything.

    • James Gill

      Rama, very interesting set of posts.

      In your first post you state:
      “we need to have our political conversations start with the acceptance that both “we” and “I” are on an equal footing”

      But 6 minutes later you start the bashing:
      “A pair of incompetents who shared as their only political offering an uncanny willingness to lie about any and everything.”

      Is this you effort to build unity? Or are you saying to the other side …. Work with me because you too incompetent to do it yourself?

      • No, James, take what I say at face value – and in the context it was offered. I make no apologies for rejecting the likes of Palin and Romney.

        • James Gill


          The point of my comment was not to defend Ms. Palin or Mr. Romney

          The point of my comment is that when you start calling people. having a view that differs from your view, “incompetent” with an “uncanny willingness to lie about any and everything”, it surly is not conducive to creating an environment of cooperation.

          I can only conclude from your statements that you have no interested in building any ‘unity’ to address the problems we face and that your statement on “political conversations start with the acceptance that both “we” and “I” are on an equal footing”, is only a facade.

          The same hold true for Mr. Stern’s post.

          • Go back to my original comment for some context, James, the meaning of a short statement can be found in the context.

    • Craig Powers


      The Republican Party (or another third party) will reinvent itself at some point in the future. Just like the Democrats did after their disastrous meltdown in the 80’s. It is also likely that the Democrats will probably begin to have fissures when the extreme left liberals/progressives begin to have their predictable tantrums.

      Your second post seems to show your intolerance for “we”. Maybe you should practice what you preach.

  • Rama people in glass houses… We have possibly the most unqualified president in this country’s history who uses the race baiting and class warfare to perfection while denigrating all business owners. He has lowered the status of the presidency even more than Clinton did by calling his opponents liars and bullshi**ers and telling voters they need to vote for revenge. Revenge for what? Daring to run against him apparently. As for Biden, the guy is nothing but a buffoon and a source of jokes for comedians.
    At least Romney and Palin has actual accomplishments on their resumes.

  • Keith, I am always baffled when people trot out the line that President Obama is the least qualified person to ever hold the job. He was a US Senator, an effective community organizer, president of the Harvard Law Review. Under his stewardship, corporate profits are at an all-time high; taxes are at a post-war low; we’re getting out of two needless, expensive wars and our society is finally beginning to rid itself of some of its inequality and bigotry.

    As to his calling for voting for revenge, nice out-of-context try. He was using idiomatic English to his supporters who booed at the utterance of “Romney.” He was admonishing the crowd to stop booing, and, instead, go out and vote.

    As to our Vice President, he’s been a real champion of working people his entire, decades-long career. What I find most interesting is in the same post you say that Biden is a buffoon but then go on and praise Palin.


    • Darren a community organizer is not exactly the top choice for president, actually probably not even on the list. As for corporate profits being at an all time high, that is pathetic since it is done at the expense of the American worker. As for taxes, wait until Obamacare fully kicks in.
      You can try and dismiss me as another conservative but I am an independent thinker. The two previous elections I voted for Ralph Nader because he was definitely the most qualified candidate to be president by far even though I don’t totally agree with his liberal ideas.

  • Walter Carpenter

    “who uses the race baiting and class warfare to perfection while denigrating all business owners. He has lowered the status of the presidency even more than Clinton did by calling his opponents liars and bullshi**ers and telling voters they need to vote for revenge”

    Keith, give evidence of Obama’s race-baiting, other than how he is Afro-American. Where has he deliberately race-baited? And how has he denigrated business owners or instigated class-warfare any more than has been instigated by the GOP on the national level? It is the GOP on the national level which has been race-baiting, instigating class-warfare, which has launched the war against the middle class on behalf of their billionaire benefactors. It is the GOP which deliberately set out to try as hard as they could to politically lynch Obama and make him a one-term president even at the cost of throwing our country off of a fiscal cliff; it is the GOP, especially under this Boehner, which has adopted a take-no-prisoners kind of attitude and has made political discourse down there all but impossible; It is the GOP candidates who spoke of legitimate versus illegitimate rape. And how is it not class warfare or race baiting when a presidential candidate of a major political party refers to 47% of the population as useless sycophants, such as Romney did?

    • Telling business owners if you’re successful, you didn’t do it. Someone did it for you doesn’t denigrate business owners? Obviously you aren’t one or at least didn’t build it on your own. My wife and I worked hard to build our business and for him to say we can thank the government for our success shows just how stupid he really is when it comes to economics and business.
      As for the Republicans trying to make him a one term president at the risk of throwing America off the fiscal cliff, do you realize how dumb that sounds? Obama formed the debt reduction committee in which he accepted none of their recommendations.
      And look at the number of layoffs and companies cutting employee hours since he won re-election. Let’s see you blame that on the Republicans instead of the fact that we have 4 more years of an anti-business president and a healthcare bill that will hurt business owners.

  • Patti Komline

    Wow – it’s easy to sit at your computers and take partisan jabs at each other. These attitudes trickle up and feed the political divide in D.C. Let’s begin with the premise that most of us want to enable Americans to attain certain goals; prosperity, access to good healthcare, financial independence, and freedom to make our own choices (just to name a few of these goals).

    We need to respectfully understand that we have different ideas on how to get there. If you truly believe your plan is “right”, there is no way you are going to convince those with a differing opinions by being disrespectful. Each person has their own point of view based on their life experiences. This doesn’t make them wrong. Just different. Diversity is good – right?

    To Rilla’s initial post. I don’t think we should do away with liberal arts classes, I just don’t see graduates with degrees in drama or art history finding good paying jobs very easily. Following one’s dreams is all well and good, as long as that person can financially support themselves. Life has changed. Opportunities have changed. Parents need to instill in their children the value of independence along with teaching them the skills to get them there.

    Your comment that without the current esoteric higher education degrees we won’t produce people who can have civil policy discussions and debate… based on what we see on blogs (right here), in mainstream media and in politics I would argue that the standard college curriculum has already proven to be ineffective in this regard. We’ve just ended up with frustrated graduates who feel they have nowhere to go but to Zuccotti Park.

  • walter carpenter

    “At least Romney and Palin has actual accomplishments on their resumes.”

    Ach, forgot to add this question. What were Palin’s accomplishments on her resume? I would not call her mayorship of Wasilla (spelling) or her governorship of Alaska accomplishments since she left both prematurely and resigned from the governorship of Alaska before she was brought up on trial for fraud, if my memory serves me right now. The only thing I can think of is that Palin did manage to connive the oil companies who were exploiting Alaska’s oil reserves and wilderness to put some of their earnings toward Alaska. As for Romney, he was great at sending jobs overseas. I guess these days that measures as an accomplishment.

  • Jason Farrell

    “Liberals will balk at the idea of budget cuts and conservatives will take a strong stand against increased taxes. Everyone will yell and scream and the politicians will back off making tough decisions because they won’t be re-elected if they do.”

    On its face, this sounds like great apolitical analysis made by an astute, objective observer.

    However, here’s a link to the Vermont Legislative Bill Tracking System. Using the helpful online tool, I submitted a query looking for any bills that were sponsored by Representative Patti Komline during the 2011-2012 legislative sessions. I’d encourage you to do the same.

    While Rep. Komline was re-elected to represent the Bennington-Rutland-1 district for the fifth time on November 6, 2012, it’s difficult to see how any of the 68 bills the representative from Dorset sponsored during the last legislative session represents the “tough decisions” she’s calling for others lawmakers to make with this op-ed. It’s possible that Rep. Komline simply chose not to make any tough decision herself in the previous session, as she feared that had she done so, she wouldn’t have been re-elected by her constituents.

    This op-ed piece appears to be simply more of the “yell and scream” variety that politicians often do ahead of an upcoming legislative session. However, just as she did in 2011-2012, when it comes time to act and make those “tough decisions” during the upcoming session, what are the chances that Rep. Komline will back off, yet again?

  • As long as most Republican party leaders have a knee jerk reflex in opposition to virtually every piece of progressive legislation from social issues to health care to climate change, they will continue to be a shrinking minority.

    Concerning higher education, as Rilla’s post points out, a university education should produce a knowledgeable, well rounded individual that can think for themselves and has an understanding and interest in various issues, past and present.. That’s why even business and science majors are required to have some exposure to the”Liberal Arts.” The college experience is a lot more than simply learning a trade.

  • You liberals all defend your chosen ones by ignoring the truth. Look up Palin’s record as governor. It is more impressive than Obama not voting as a senator. Romney is blamed for making money for investors but no one has a problem with the head of Obama’s job creation committe the head of a company that has greatly outsourced more jobs than Romney and whose company used legal means to evade US taxes? As for race baiting, how about his the police acted stupidly comment or his telling a hispanic audience they must punish their enemies? As for your expanation of his vote for revenge comment that is very weak. If you understand what that means you would realize that isn’t something any incumbent should be saying. Why did they need revenge for Obama to have a challenger? Obama needed it because he feels he is above everyone else. That is why he allowed 4 Americans to be murdered in Benghazi and has lied and covered the truth repeatedly.
    As for the economy? Get ready for a long, miserable ride.

    • Michael Stevens

      The only thing impressive about Palin’s record is that she managed to avoid going to jail for corruption before abruptly resigning to go on a book tour. That is about as unimpressive as it gets.

      As for race baiting, the police did act stupidly, after the GOP’s outright attacks on hispanic voters through fascistic papers laws I’m surprised he’s the only one who has pointed that the GOP has made an enemy of this group, and finally the President has every right to tell voters to stop booing and start voting for their opponent.

      Who the heck gave you the right to decide “that isn’t something any incumbent should be saying”? Maybe in a dictatorship, you’d have the right to do that, here we have this thing called freedom of speech.

      Regarding Benghazi, if you think the President actually “allowed 4 Americans to be murdered”, you should stop to think about how insane that sounds. He no more “let them die” than Bush “let 9/11 happen”.

      You make some points for voting third party, but if you think any of this demonstrates Romney was the better candidate, you’re just defending your chosen one by ignoring the truth.

    • David Bell

      Palin record as governor was completing half a term, making a complete fool of herself on a national stage and then leaving her state in disarray with her departure. Romney’s record was governing his state so badly that he didn’t even bother trying for a second term, knowing his constituents wanted nothing to do with him. Conversely, Obama was a successful Senator who chose to serve his country in the legislature instead of pursuing a very well paying law career.

      As for race baiting, after Romney getting booed out of the NAACP and then calling the people there a bunch of moochers who wanted free stuff, as well as his “self-deport” garbage; the idea that you accuse Obama of race baiting when he dares to call the GOP out on this despicable, racist thuggery is pretty hard to swallow.

      As is your lie that Obama thinks that if you’re successful, it is because of the government. He pointed out that you, like all businesses use the paved roads, telecommunications and legal system set up and maintained by the government, and that it is by working together that businesses are able to thrive.

      If you feel differently, try setting up a business in a third world country without these commons that Republicans endlessly denigrate.

      Obama came into office when the absurdly deregulated banking system had collapsed the economy and we were losing 700,000 jobs per month, and Mitch McConnell actually said his biggest goal was making sure Obama was a one term President. You call Walter stupid for saying this, yet he simply repeated the exact words of the Republican Senate Minority leader who proceeded to abuse the filibuster and proudly declared he had stymied the government from working effectively.

      In the end, you have nothing to support the straw man you have built up, which is why you resort to calling people stupid and idiotic.

      Perhaps you should take your own advice about glass houses and throwing stones.

  • Ralph Colin

    Patti has served her Bennington-Rutland District 1 with great distinction and success. You don’t have to take my word for it; ask her constituents. As Minority Leader, she reached out to all the members of her caucus which has been as divided as the Republican members of the U.S House of Representatives. No easy job, that: Reference Speaker Boehner.

    Her op-ed commentary is carefully crafted, composed with a great deal of sensible thought and equanimity. Perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea, but most of us don’t like hearing about the tough decisions we all have to make, both “liberals” and “conservatives.”

    The rest of you commentators, resorting to insults, negative pot-shots and blatantly going off-message are like a bunch of kintergarteners with no ability to focus on the essence of the discussion, running beserk in the classroom and effectively throwing blobs of paint and mud at eachother. No wonder we are in the mess in which we find ourselves. Shame on all of you.

    • Bruce Post

      I don’t know Patti Komline, but I appreciate her efforts, along with Cynthia Browning, Paul Poirier and Chris Pearson, to attempt to have the CVPS windfall paid back to ratepayers. Thanks, Rep. Komline.

  • Ron Pulcer

    Rep. Komline,

    While I am also concerned about our economy and jobs, I have a slightly more positive view of what is going on in the U.S. The recovery is happening in the Midwest, and it will come to Vermont … eventually. Vermont lags both in recession and recovery, partly due to our reliance on tourism.

    I have lived in VT since 1995, leaving the auto industry well before it imploded (I knew it would, … eventually). GM was being run by financial guys, not car guys, i.e. engineers who came up through the ranks). The moving of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and the hiring of H1-B tech workers in lieu of U.S. college grads was already well underway in the mid-1990s.

    I have two relatives in Michigan who graduated from college in 2011 and 2012. Both found jobs in their chosen field within 3 months of graduation. One is a music / math teacher, and the other works in transportation as a logistics analyst. The fact that a trucking company is hiring college grads is a very good sign. It means that the manufacturing sector is coming back, albeit slower than we would like.

    Both of them found jobs in Michigan. The Michigan recession began 2-3 years before the financial collapse, and has been in recovery mode since 2010.

    I’m a 50-something white male and a fiscal conservative, and I voted for President Obama. He helped my home state and the auto industry. The was the best “gift” he could give the manufacturing sector, after the likes of Romney’s Bain Capital, and the “Bain Drain”:

    Also, I have worked since I was a teenager, paying payroll taxes all along. Luckily, I’ve never been laid off. So I am not part of the 47%. However, I do have sympathy for manufacturing sector workers who have been laid off over the past decade-plus years.

    Paul Ryan had stated that if you “55 of older”, than his voucher-ized Social Security reform plan would not apply. But I missed that cutoff by less than two years. Mr. Ryan did not even propose a gradual transition, just an “age 55 cliff” to Voucher-ville.

  • Patrick Bosco

    I find the above conversation fascinating on multiple levels. Starting with the college conversation, “The college experience is a lot more than simply learning a trade.” This may be true, but when many colleges are now north of $50K/year, there has to be some practical conversation as to whether or not the “experience” is worth the cost. The student loan debt in this country is unsustainable, and is likely the next bubble to burst. I have heard stories of lenders going after the cosigners of these loans, often parents nearing retirement. The time is fast coming for a more pragmatic assessment of the value of a college degree. I have heard that some institutions are already altering the tuition fee schedule to reflect degree being pursued, more for a technical degree like engineering, less for degrees like English Literature and the like.
    Regarding experience, those who have never worked in the private sector or owned a business have no idea what it is like to do so, to worry about expenses, employee pay and benefits, onorous regulations, or turning a profit so that your hard work yields something for you, the producer. Professional politicians like Biden and Obama cannot possibly identify with this experience, and hence have no respect for businesses. They scoff at the profit motive and act as though business should exist only to pay taxes and jump whenever the government instructs them to do so, over whatever hurdles they create. And anyone who thinks Biden isn’t a buffoon has to look no further than his recent comment to the father of the former Navy SEAL that died in Benghazi, regarding the size of his genitals. Champion indeed!
    Regarding government reform, whether or not anyone wants to hear it, the reality is that our government has a spending problem. Federal tax revenues increased from 2010 to 2011, but the federal spending deficit increased more. Until we force our governments to balance the budget, they will continue deficit spending. This is how they get reelected, shunting money to projects that are popular or have a big-money lobby that will fund their campaigns. Perhaps if we created term limits for all, and increased the age before which one can run for public office, this would change. They first learn what it’s like to live in the real world, and that after a couple of terms they have to return to it, and the rules they created for the rest of us.
    Regarding Obama’s divisiveness, I don’t think there is much overt race baiting. Instead he has engaged viciously in class warfare, with comments like “You didn’t build that,” and calling those who make $200K+ “millionares and billionares,” when the reality is that these are usually highly paid working professionals and small business owners who already pay the lion’s share of taxes. The truly wealthy, the Clintons, Bushes, Kennedys, Kerrys, Heinzes, Romneys, etc, make the bulk of their income passively and often in tax exempt ways, like municipal bonds. The earned income rate they want to increase would not affect them, only people who actively work for a paycheck. They already pay a higher percentage of their income and the a higher absolute amount in terms of taxes. How is disproportionately increasing taxes on them making everyone have “skin in the game?” They already give more skin than most! Again, it’s a spending problem, but then, how will they continue the grab bag of government gimmees that got them reelected to begin with?

  • ed fisher

    Here’s what liberal minded economists will seemingly never get ; Reducing taxes AND spending is the only way , The moronic statement that increasing tax revenues to pay for cuts is just that ! Cut spending , cut growth of government ! There is no more credit carding of our national dept allowed !

  • Dave Bellini

    “Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”
    ― Harry S. Truman

  • walter carpenter

    ” You liberals all defend your chosen ones by ignoring the truth. Look up Palin’s record as governor. It is more impressive than Obama not voting as a senator.”

    Keith, Sarah Palin resigned her post as governor of Alaska before her term expired. She did so before she may have been forced to resign on ethics charges.

    “That is why he allowed 4 Americans to be murdered in Benghazi and has lied and covered the truth repeatedly.”

    Do you have proof that Obama deliberately allowed this to happen?

  • Patrick Cashman

    It should probably be noted that this editorial is not original material, it was first printed in the Bennington Banner on 16 November.

  • Ron Pulcer

    I do agree to some extent with Rep. Komline’s comment about the practicality of some college majors. My two relatives that found jobs soon after graduation studied education/teaching and business logistics.

    In regards to education: Here’s another point along the Republican Primary trail where they lost my vote: Rick Santorum.

    My Santorum called President Obama a “snob” for suggesting that he wanted all children to have the opportunity to attend college (if they so chose).

    My grandparents were also Italian immigrant’s like Mr. Santorum’s grandparents. Also very strong hard-working people.

    My parents “might” have been able to afford my college tuition, but I was the oldest of three children. So it would not have been fair to only pay for one child.

    When I was in high school, my mother looked straight at me and said, “You are going to college, and you are going to figure out how to pay for it”. So I started at a community college, since it was all I could afford. College tuition was relatively affordable back then, in conjunction with the $2.10 hourly minimum wage at that time. Luckily, I was able to do so until my senior year; then I needed both the government and parental student loans.

    I guess Mr. Santorum would have called my mother a “snob” for wanting her children to attend college.

    That right there is the difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. Republicans define the “American Dream” as becoming “RICH” (and staying rich), like Mitt Romney, Sheldon Adelson, et al.

    For my grandparents / parents, the “American Dream” meant having their grandchildren / children get a college education, and get a better paying job then what they could get with a 6th-grade / high school education. As the first person to graduate from college in my family, I am happy to say that I (and my parents / grandparents) achieved the “American Immigrant’s Dream”!

  • John Greenberg

    Patti Komline’s basic premise is that the core problem confronting the US economy is the federal government’s deficits and debt. I presume this means that, in her estimation, the economy would be functioning well if the budget were balanced and there were no debt.

    If that were so, then any number of states would have perfect economies, since few, if any, states are allowed to run long-term deficits.

    Spain, for example, would be an economic paradise, according to Komline’s thesis, since its government was running surpluses until very recently AND at the same time, 25% unemployment.

    Consider too that the US federal government ran balanced budgets under President Hoover, under whom the Great Depression got its start. Hoover’s era of balanced budgets also ended with unemployment around 25%.

    Respectfully, I submit that Ms. Komline is simply wrong about her premise, and that balancing the federal budget is NOT the way to solve the economic mess in which we find ourselves. Indeed, as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and numerous other economists have pointed out repeatedly, fixing the deficit right now would point us in the opposite direction. Indeed, that’s exactly why everyone is now all worked up about the fiscal cliff: it WOULD lower federal deficits AND by so doing, LOWER our economic output and RAISE unemployment.

    When economies are in deep recession, the basic problem is insufficient aggregate demand. It’s not, as Ms. Komline suggests that businesses all of a sudden find themselves more productive and therefore in less need of employees. It’s that these businesses have fewer CUSTOMERS, without whom, they no longer need the employees they have. Moreover, even if there were NO taxes on their revenues, they still wouldn’t hire more employees unless they first found more customers to buy their products.

    Which is where national governments CAN come into the picture. By spending more money than they take in, governments create larger levels of economic demand than the markets are able to do. When economic utilization is high, this cab cause inflation; but when it’s subpar, as it now is, it raises the level of aggregate demand, “creates” new demand for some businesses directly (e.g. construction companies doing government infrastructure projects), and provides others with income they would not have had, which then allows them to spend it on the products of other private sector businesses.

    In other words, in a recession, budget deficits are NOT the problem; they are very much part of the solution. Obviously, this is not sustainable in the long run, so that when the economy recovers, governments need to reverse the process by allowing spending to decrease, revenues to rise, and the private sector to sustain both aggregate supply and demand.

    It’s no coincidence that this is effectively what Ben Bernanke has been saying for over a year now, what Europe needs (instead of the austerity which is actually counterproductive) and what has kept the Chinese economic ticking along at a faster rate than the rest of the world since the downturn of 2008 (although their growth is now threatened by the ongoing recession/slow growth in the rest of the world, which is depriving them of customers).

    In closing, I would note that I have run a Vermont business since 1975. I built it from scratch, but that doesn’t mean that I built it “myself.” When I ran an open shop, my business could not have existed without the roads which governments built and on which my customers traveled to get to my shop. When I migrated to the internet (itself the child of DARPA research and thus of the federal government), I became completely dependent of the post office, which the government also built.

  • Walter Carpenter

    “In closing, I would note that I have run a Vermont business since 1975. I built it from scratch, but that doesn’t mean that I built it “myself.”

    Great post, John. Thanks so much for showing the link between a successful business, large or small, and the customers who make that business successful, along with the roads the government-sponsored research that made the Internet, and so on:) I have run a business as well.