“It’s the economy, stupid,” rang the famous words of Democratic strategist James Carville in the 1992 presidential election, a phrase often echoed through these past years of recession.
Then, argues one third-party presidential hopeful, why not elect an economist to the Oval Office?
Laurence Kotlikoff, a professor at Boston University and a onetime senior economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, is angling for the nomination of the Americans Elect party. To get there, he first needs 50,000 support clicks at the new party’s website to qualify for the online primary.
Kotlikoff said that will be a “hurdle,” but “I think I’m the only who is really serious in terms of having plans to fix the country.”
And in an ode to his mantra that he’s not about party affiliation, he’s offering the Purple Plans to get the economy back on track.
“They’re all simple plans,” Kotlikoff said. “Some of them have been endorsed by large numbers of very prominent people.” They’ve also been in the making long before he threw his hat into the 2012 ring, involving “decades” of thought, number-crunching, and discussions with other economists, he added.
For example, his Purple Tax Plan replaces the federal personal and corporate income taxes as well as the estate and gift tax with a broad-based, low-rate, progressive consumption tax and a low-rate, progressive inheritance tax. It nixes annual tax returns and includes a monthly payment, based on household size, to ensure that those living at or below the poverty line pay no tax, on net, on their consumption. The sales tax rate would be 17.5 percent, with 15 cents of every dollar going toward taxes and 85 cents for consumption.
In a “Win the Future,” “America Built to Last” campaign season, Kotlikoff said his slogan — and the basis of his platform — is “Our Kids are Us.”
“The country’s essentially bankrupt at this point,” he said. “The most important thing to the public is their kids.”
His Purple Plans extend to the financial sector, Social Security, energy, “generational balance,” and health care — providing universal coverage and turning Medicare into a voucher-based system.
“Politicians have left our kids with a terrible fiscal problem,” Kotlikoff said. “They don’t seem to understand how to fix things. They seem to know how to make things worse.”
Even worse than EU bailout icon Greece, he argued, when you take into account future obligations such as entitlements and defense spending as total debt.
Kotlikoff faces a challenge from former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, a campaign-finance reform advocate who abandoned his quest for the Republican Party nomination last week and turned his hopes to an Americans Elect ticket.
“That’s great,” Kotlikoff said, noting that Roemer’s entrenched social-media effort will help drive people to the Americans Elect site. “I’ll be happy to debate him.”
While calling his economic background “a plus” in today’s climate, Kotlikoff said, “unlike Buddy Roemer, I’m not a one-issue candidate; I can focus on more than one thing at once.”
He plans on beefing up his ticket with an as-yet unnamed “former top-ranking member of the military” as vice president, something he hopes to line up by next week.
“If that happens, I think we’ll have a really strong domestic and foreign policy team,” he said.
Not that Kotlikoff comes without his own foreign policy views. He pans “nation-building” efforts such as in Iraq and Afghanistan as “not to our advantage” — “I wouldn’t get us involved in a ground war,” he said — and thinks “all the China-bashing that’s going on” will only be counterproductive in economic relations.
On Iran, he said the global community needs to act quickly if the Islamic Republic is on track to build a nuclear weapon within a year — not enough time, he believes, for economic sanctions to work.
“If this is a country that’s being run by fanatics, which it seems to be, then we have no alternative” other than military action, he said.
“I think it’s a big mistake when an American president says they’re going to do something and prevent something and they don’t do it,” Kotlikoff said of the Obama administration’s stance on Iran.
On climate change, he pans Solyndra-style endeavors but said there is “enough evidence to suggest” that we can’t take a risk and ignore global warming.
“If there’s a decent-size chance that it is happening, risking terrible outcomes, we have to pay serious attention and deal with it” by means including a carbon tax, the economist said.
He would also stock his cabinet with people from a wide range of experience and wide range of political viewpoints.
“The point of this campaign is to bring people together, so I would have people in my cabinet from both parties,” he said.
Some examples of Kotlikoff’s dream team: “brilliant economist” Jeffrey Sachs as either U.S. ambassador to the United Nations or secretary of State, Dennis Ross, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) as budget director (“someone I greatly respect”), or Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, as Treasury secretary.
“I wouldn’t hesitate [on possibly] hiring people from abroad,” he said. “They would have to be on board with the policy proposals.”
People working for Obama, he said, “seem to have some old-time Keynesian views.”
Kotlikoff’s Supreme Court picks would have to have no political background or ties, he stressed. “Politics and justice have very little connection,” he added.
While eyeing apolitical means to try to fix the country’s problems, Kotlikoff also doesn’t place himself in a political corner.
“Part of me is very libertarian, part of me is very liberal,” he said. “They come together on certain issues.”
Instead of rallying against government, he advocates “efficient government.”
“The other aspect of where I’m coming from is as an economist,” he said. “I understand that we need government to run certain things. Getting rid of government involvement in health care, for example, is not the answer. Ignoring our energy problem is not the answer.”
The answer, he contends, is a presidential candidate who’s not necessarily the best at soundbites or is a great debater, but can offer “bold new leadership to fix America.”
“[Voters] need to consider someone who’s a grown-up to start with,” Kotlikoff said. “We don’t have any clear grown-ups on either side.”
PJ Media Disclosure: Laurence J. Kotlikoff has provided consulting services to PJ Media, LLC in the areas of economics and personal financial planning. PJ Media also markets selected personal financial planning applications that have been created by a company, Economics Security Planning, Inc., of which Laurence Kotlikoff is the president.