Forbes: A master of the quip

The current attempt at economic recovery is the worst Steve Forbes has ever seen, and he’s not shy about saying why.

Speaking to a sold-out keynote luncheon of the recent Association for Corporate Growth’s Rocky Mountain Corporate Growth Conference, Forbes said that despite the estimate that the U.S. economy should create 3.5 million jobs this year, the world’s leading economy is like a car going 45 mph when it is capable of reaching 75.

In the 1970s, the economy experienced three recessions, but the bounce backs were quick. The same was true with a couple 1980s recessions. Not true this time, the editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine said, because of economic “headwinds,” as he called them: monetary, administrative and regulatory policies combined with the health care crisis.

Displaying his mastery of the humorous sound bite, Malcolm Stevenson “Steve” Forbes relied on well-practiced arguments that he used during his presidential primary runs in 1996 and 2000: a stronger dollar, a flat tax, less governmental regulation, lower government spending, personalized Social Security and his call for a form of gold standard. He’s thrown in his solutions to health care reform, which, predictably, rely on capitalism and free markets to implement.

Here are a few takes from his speech, including the quips:

Monetary policy is too loose – “The Fed has been on a bender since the beginning of the last decade. QE2 should be scrapped. You cannot get a sustained recovery with a weak dollar. It leads to a flight of capital. Wealth is created not by governments but by you doing business with each other…When you change the value of money it’s disruptive. It hurts the economy. We should have learned that from the 70s. We’re almost in a trade war with China over this thing.”

Best quip: “If printing money was so good, Zimbabwe and Argentina would rule the world. You could not have had a housing bubble without the liquidity that hangs out there.”

The government spends money like drunken sailors – The federal government has to be cut back. A 17 percent flat tax should be implemented on individuals and corporations alike, with families of four earning $46,000 and under exempt from taxes. Do away with scheduled depreciation and let companies write off capital expenses in one year. States should lower tax burdens to encourage investment and economic growth. Do away with the death tax.

Best quip: “Stimulus comes from you. It takes resources from you and puts it through the political sausage factory and spits it out again. It’s inefficient and burdens the economy. That’s why the Tea Party rose up. People are starting to get it.”

Stop overregulating – Forbes didn’t say how to prevent another Enron, but he would do away with Sarbanes Oxley regulation on public companies. Companies should find it easier to file IPOs but don’t because they fear lawsuits. The FDA has made it more difficult for companies to get drugs and other products approved, inhibiting investment.

Capitalism can fix health care – Open up health care for competition, Forbes said. He notes that nationwide insurance shopping is illegal. By creating “high-risk pools,” people would be encouraged to take better care of themselves through preventative measures. Businesses should be allowed to band together and form insurance buying pools or networks. “Food is more basic than health care but you don’t have the government taking over the farms,” he added.

Best quip: “Health care is a crazy system. You can’t show up and ask what it costs. They look at you like a lunatic. ‘What’s it to you?’ they ask.”
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