DUE TO COVID-19, THIS EVENT IS POSTPONED WITH RESCHEDULING TO BE DETERMINED.
Support the Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget Event are holding a civic event at the Mendel Center in Benton Harbor, MI on March 23rd and 24th, 2020. Read more below. SUPPORT THE CENTER provides a voice for intelligent political dialogue driven by analysis, facts, and a spirit of compromise. We seek contributors to post economic and political commentary representing centrist thought….
Below is the note sent to members of the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan on 01/08/2020, describing the event. If you are not a member of the Speakers Series, but would like to participate, please call Bill Hurst directly at 773-213-3402.
Dear Speakers Series Member
Several months ago, Bill Hurst, one of your fellow Speakers Series members, approached us about having the event outlined below at The Mendel Center. We continually look for opportunities to add membership value to the Speakers Series, particularly by facilitating occasions for members to socialize and interact around topics of common interest. For this reason, we agreed to assist with sharing this unique opportunity to our membership base.
We are generally supportive of non-partisan efforts to explore topics of interest in an educational and constructive manner. Having said that, neither the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Speakers Series nor Lake Michigan College endorses or is a sponsor of this event.
Director, The Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Speakers Series & Executive Director, The Mendel Center
POSTPONED DUE TO THE COVID-19 VIRUS.
In today’s hyper-partisan political climate, wouldn’t it be an uplifting experience to discover that when southwestern Michigan neighbors discuss pressing problems facing our Country face-to-face, they can agree on common solutions to specific issues despite deep ideological differences? Support the Center (supportthecenter.org) and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (crfb.org) are teaming up to bring such an experience to The Mendel Center in March 2020. Participants will first attend a presentation to learn about the Federal Budget. They will then participate on a team in a non-partisan policy simulation to reduce the US budget deficit to sustainable levels. Immediate feedback from the simulation allows teams to see their progress towards the goal. The purpose is that participants gain greater topical knowledge, find common ground with neighbors, and leave with hope that the country might solve this and similar US problems through rational, open discussion. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (crfb.org) is a prestigious non-partisan group, co-chaired by Mitch Daniels and Leon Panetta, dedicated to reducing the Federal Deficit to sustainable levels. The CRFB simulation, called the “Debt Fixer” has been conducted across the US. A CRFB budget expert and facilitator will guide the simulation. The simulation supports multiple paths to reduce the deficit, based on differing political goals. Reliable budget sources, such as the CBO, are sources for the model. A simulation retrospective will review group’s outcomes and roadblocks. Support the Center (SupportTheCenter.org), is a Berrien County organization researching the history of, reasons for, and potential solutions for our political divide. STC is dedicated to the hypothesis that neighbors can find common ground on issues even when ideologically divided. STC is interviewing Berrien County neighbors from both sides of the political divide to understand viewpoints, encourage dialogue, and to promote no-labels thinking. This research will culminate in a book to be published mid-year 2020. Two simulations (same content) will be held at The Mendel Center: March 23, 6 – 9 pm; light appetizers provided March 24, 7:30 – 11 am; light breakfast provided A $10 donation at the door is suggested to partially defray costs. To participate in the simulation. R.S.V.P. through the red button below. Please provide all the information asked for, including name, email, and phone. STC will contact you to take a survey, the results of which will be confidential. Based on the survey, participants with various viewpoints will be grouped together at tables of eight, with 128 attendees (64 per session) in total. A waiting list will be maintained. Attendees must attend a 30-minute CRFB presentation on the budget and deficits at the beginning of each simulation. We look forward to your participation. Thank you and sincerely yours,
Bill Hurst, Support the Center
Here is more about Support the Center’s Centrist Orientation, stressing dialog and compromise:
The US has unique strengths but its political institutions have become choked by partisanship on the extremes. We need:
- Open dialogue between mainstream thinkers and citizens needs to occur to support reasonable solutions to key issues that face our country.
- Compromise between leaders of our political establishment is essential to getting to solutions. Hard thought, unsparing analysis of options, lack of ideology, a respect for fiscal prudence balanced by fairness are required.
Here is a sampling of some economic principles and observations that will guide Support the Center:
- Government is neither “the solution” or “the problem”. Government should not be starved, nor can it solve all problems. Analysis has to be used to determine where government is required to support broader public interests.
- Current economic conditions in the US are reasonably good. We hear from candidates and the press that conditions are awful. The short-term situation is reasonably good; it is the deeper long-term problems and underlying structural imbalances which we will concentrate on in Support the Center.
- The left and right have not provided or been forthright about viable solutions to resolve the long-term fiscal issues facing the US. Support the Center will examine the Federal Deficit in depth to provide some perspective and options for sustainable management of our economy to understand where the country stands. Numbers and composition of the budget are revealing and debunk rhetoric from both left and right. Some programs will need to be trimmed (Medicare). The tax code would benefit from simplification and plugging loop holes. There are no easy answers, but we will strive to provide facts and options.
- Taxes on both the middle class and the rich need to increase somewhat (and on the rich somewhat more) to meet current and future obligations. (This is pure math, not ideology.) Support the Center believes the current Progressive tax structure (where the rich are obligated to pay proportionally more of their income) needs to be preserved and marginal rates at the top increased somewhat. The rich benefit disproportionally in our global economy, and do need to pay somewhat more so dividends from growth are better distributed in the economy. (But as you will see, Support the Center believes culture, and not just distribution, is playing a role in US income inequality.)
- Bernie Sanders is promoting a fantasy that the rich can pay for our spending. The numbers don’t add up, and eventually the incentives become perverse.
- The “starve the beast” mentality has resulted in under-investment in public infrastructure. Spending more on infrastructure will help boost demand and improve our lives.
- Trump was a poor choice for President, but he got elected. He has hit a nerve in many of our fellow citizens and we need to analyze his backing, what it means and why he has the support he has. Now that he is President, we need to scrutinize his policies and provide opposition or support where appropriate. Off the bat, “Support the Center” has disagreements with some of Trump’s campaign promises. Two examples:
Support the Center has a free-trade bias. Tariffs, however well meaning, have been shown by economic theory and history (look at Argentina under Peron) to hurt citizens who will supposedly benefit, hurt the world economy, and will gradually weaken the ability of the US to compete in the world. If he wants to go after real causes of trade deficits, he should look at the role of the Dollar as a reserve currency, which is estimated to increase our deficits by 2 – 3% per year. But eliminating the Dollar as a reserve currency is a double-edged sword, as we will eventually discuss.
Trump’s constant denigration of the Press, and propensity to lie (there is no other way to describe his rejection of facts) is the first step down the road to making the US into a banana republic. (The fact that the Press generally is weak on analysis and show biases on both ends is true but facts are facts and denying them is lying.)
- Hillary Clinton also was a flawed candidate, with too little administrative experience and too little service in government, a tendency towards bureaucracy, a propensity for secrecy and not enough political moxie. The email server debacle showed poor judgement (not criminality) and she showed a lack of political courage in veering to the left in response to Sanders. For example, her backing off on TPP was destructive in a year when free trade came under attack. All this said, between her and Trump, Clinton was the better choice.
- The American people deserve blame for some of the dysfunction of our political system, making shallow choices. (Granted, the choices are not always optimal.) In recent elections, Americans have looked for mavericks instead of experts immersed in the systems we want changed. Instead, we need experts in the systems they will run.Barrack Obama is a good example – a likeable, principled and very smart man, but not part of the culture and politics of Washington until he was elected. We voted for him because he was an outsider. This is a mistake we seem to make over and over.
- Mainstream economics will be our guide. Keynes laid down the theory our mixed economy operates under and modern economists have amended it. We need to explore how writers such as Martin Wolf (“The Shifts and the Shocks”) use that theory to explain “the demand trap” and how the European Union’s fiscal and governing structure and the divide between countries with surplus and deficit current accounts has created a crisis in world economics resulting in slower growth. Populists like Trump indicate they can speed up the economy. We need to be very cautious about artificial, temporary steps to speed up the economy. Understanding the issues are key and these issues are complex. We will explore them with your help in Support the Center.
- US Foreign policy needs to be based on geo-political concerns and not as much on the US refashioning the world in its image. The world is a mess with “world order” coming apart in many aspects. We will look at the issues and some suggestions to move back to a world order. Our hope is that bi-partisanship in foreign policy is promoted.
- Support the Center is deeply conservative in the traditional sense of the word (and centrist by modern definitions). Radical right proposals for eliminating government, going back to the gold standard or instituting a flat tax, are deeply radical and unpredictable in their consequences for damaging our country. Radical left proposals for redistribution of wealth are equally radical and likely ineffective in promoting long-term economic welfare. Support the Center will pursue the middle road – use our existing institutions and our ability to put our heads together to resolve issues.
This introduction probably reveals enough to alienate those on both sides of the political spectrum. Good government and satisfying the public interest is not a slogan. It is hard work, and we would like your viewpoints and writing to further that cause. Please go to our Upcoming Articles page to see how you can contribute your thoughts and articles.