Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Report: "Back to Work" by Bill Clinton Part II

Bill Clinton’s “Back to Work” Part II
Section 2: What we can do…
President Clinton outlines at least 46 solutions which would help America get on the road to recovery, many of which are related to “green energy”, a field I too feel America is not doing enough in.  From wind and solar to biofuels and geothermal President Clinton devotes significant time to each in the book.  All of the solutions which President Clinton lays out are worthy of debate and consideration, I again strongly suggest you pick a copy of this book for yourself and dive in.  America now more than ever needs an informed electorate; an electorate who knows what challenges we are facing and some genuine solutions of how to fix them.  For the sake of time I’ll just give you five solutions which I took away from the book. 

1.       First, end the mortgage mess as quickly as possible.
-          Why tackle the housing issue first?  It would clean up bank balance sheets, allowing them to lend more capital to businesses so they can expand or hire.  Banks lack of lending is a big problem for many small businesses which are trying to grow and expand but can not get the money to do so.
-          Bringing an end to the housing market crisis would also reduce the economic stress that is on consumers allowing them to spend more in other areas; this will generate more demand and help the economy.  This can be done in multiple different ways: Allowing homeowners that have upside down mortgages to refinance, or give borrowers who can’t make payments an option to exchange the deed for a multiyear lease with payments they can make.   Increased demand helps business, which creates jobs.

2.       Let corporations repatriate cash now with no tax liability IF it’s used to create NEW jobs in America. 
-          Unlike in 2004 when a tax rate of 5.25% was put on repatriated money, many economist considered the 2004 tax rate a bust because the money was not put into creating jobs thus growing the economy, its was put in dividends, derivatives,  used in buy back of stocks, or executive pay, THIS time the repatriated money would be completely tax free IF companies can prove the money was spent to create new jobs in the United States.  If not, if they just want more executive pay or inflated stock prices,  any repatriated funds would be subject to a 15% rate like capital gains. 

3.       Launch an aggressive 50 state building energy retrofit initiative. 
-          Start with buildings that we know aren’t going to change ownership, government facilities (Federal, State, local), schools public and private, colleges, hospitals, large commercial buildings.  This initiative will create thousands if not millions of jobs for the retrofitting, lower energy consumption, and saving people/business money which will allow them to grow and hire more people again creating jobs.  How can you pay for this, one might ask?  You can pay for this program by providing loans with government guarantees to assure the banks are paid back, this should increase banks willingness to lend.  Also, since many financial balance sheets are tight and people/businesses may not be able to take on another payment, we should follow the example of New York’s new law which creates a payment structure that is an “on bill” line item (  Basically you continue to pay a set rate on your utilities after your facility energy retrofit is complete.  Your energy cost goes down and the savings you gain become your payment for the loan until the loan is repaid. Once your loan is repaid your bill drops and your savings are yours. What's not to like about that?

4.       Develop our natural gas resources. 
-          President Clinton sends a clear message that he supports expanded natural gas consumption over other fossil fuels. 

“It’s the cleanest fossil fuel, more than 50 percent cleaner than coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, 25 percent cleaner than oil when used in transportation, only one-fourth as expensive. “

-         President Clinton does acknowledge the environmental stigma which has surrounded “fracking” however with proper regulation and some transparency from the gas companies regarding the type of chemicals used in the process, he believes much of the controversy can be defused.  An expansion of natural gas production could have a huge impact in the transportation sector, and if we were to adopt a plan similar to that which is laid out by T. Boone Pickens ( the amount of crude oil we import from the Middle East could be all but eliminated.  The Pickens Plan in part calls for 18 wheeler trucks  to be converted to run on natural gas, but T. Boone Pickens doesn't stop at only heavy trucks.  Public transportation and school buses, taxis, utility vehicles such garbage trucks and tow trucks, delivery truck (FedEx, UPS, US Postal Service), all should be converted.   This conversion to NGV's (natural gas vehicles) would lower dependence on foreign oil, potentially create millions of new jobs in America, boost the American economy, and be better for the environment than fueling these vehicles with crude oil.  There shouldn't be much disagreement here. 

5.       Negotiate long-term contracts to sell food to China, Saudi Arabia, and other nations facing food shortages.
-          In the case of rapidly developing nations and nations with limited agricultural possibilities, the ability to feed its citizens is sometimes difficult. Economically this creates a good opportunity for the United States, which is the world’s largest exporter or grain.  First, long term food agreements would help America farmers who may be adversely affect by congress’s decision to end the corn ethanol subsidy. Secondly, it also improves our negotiating positions with China, a country who holds much of our national debt, and Saudi Arabia to keep an affordable and steady supply of oil. This would be a win for everybody. 

There is so much more I could unpack from the book whether it is about infrastructure, partisanship, regulation, taxes, debt, or green energies I could go on and on, but I feel I have given you a good preview of what you can expect from the book.  President Clinton’s “Back to Work” provides insights and solutions from someone who has been there and done that, a perspective from someone who has already succeeded in doing what America needs to do again…get the economy growing and get Americans back to work.
“I don’t know how this will turn out.  I just know that for more than two hundred years, everyone who’s bet against the United States has lost.  A lot of people are betting against us today.  I’m betting that once again, in a very different world, we’ll find our way to a “more perfect Union.” Let’s get the show on the road.”        
-Final words of President Clinton’s “Back to work” 

Will you pick up a copy of "Back to work" by Bill Clinton? What do you think of the few solutions I outlined above?