Joanne Butler | All Articles

Joanne Butler
Joanne Butler
Former Staffer, House Ways and Means Committee
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      Joanne Butler

      Joanne Butler is a senior economics fellow at the Caesar Rodney Institute of Delaware. You can email her at [email protected]

Tiny Tax Reform

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has discussed accomplishing comprehensive tax reform this year.  I wish him and President Trump well in this endeavor, but most people won’t pay attention, let alone understand what’s involved.  If the President wants an easy-to-understand win, he should consider zapping that $1 ‘Universal Connectivity Charge’ on phone bills.  This was an Al Gore legacy, to get everyone connected to the Internet (which he invented, remember?).

Made Where In The USA?

2:03 PM 04/19/2017

President Trump is absolutely right to use his bully pulpit to encourage American manufacturing.  But I believe an important factor in success in manufacturing in the country is where the firm sites its facilities. Some states are much more business-friendly than others, resulting in competitive price points for a firm’s final product.

Lessons From World War I

12:37 PM 04/06/2017

Today marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I – the war known in Europe as ‘the Great War’.  Most Americans know little about our participation in that war, possibly because for us our ‘Great War’ was World War II.  And although our involvement was short (April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1918), there are lessons to be learned from it.  Here are two:

How Jared Kushner Can Successfully Reform Government

12:20 AM 03/30/2017

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, is heading up a government reform team made up of top-level business sector people.  Meanwhile, inside the Beltway and across the nation, millions of bureaucrats shrug.  They’ve seen it before – e.g., former Vice President Al Gore’s ‘Silver Hammer’ awards for government innovation.  The federal government is large, unionized (in many places), with varying corporate cultures among agencies.  But Kusher could succeed if he aims at the right targets.  Here are a few of my suggestions.

How The Fed’s Rate Increase Will Impact Consumers

7:02 PM 03/08/2017

Are you considering refinancing your mortgage or buying a home or car this year?  Shopping for a sweet deal on a credit card with a low interest rate?  Taking out a loan to remodel your home?  If so, you may need move fast before interest rates are expected to go up next week and rise again later this year.

Private Social Security Accounts Won’t Work

8:02 PM 03/02/2017

A common argument for hiving off part of one’s Social Security taxes into a private account is the federal employee Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) – a 401(k) type savings plan.  Now that the TSP is 30 years old, the savings data is troubling, and, frankly, makes a poor argument for private accounts.

A Border Adjustment Tax Is A Really Dumb Idea

3:45 PM 02/21/2017

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has it right: Speaker Paul Ryan’s ‘Border Tax Adjustment’ is a bad idea.  One clue:  Ryan’s put a fancy name on a simple idea. His ‘Border Tax Adjustment’ in simple language means ‘import taxes on everything.’  It will result in price increases on almost everything, while workers’ pay remains flat.  This is gross indifference to middle and working class Americans – Trump voters.

School Reform: Betsy DeVos Knows The Answer

5:50 PM 02/09/2017

Recently, liberals on news shows were talking about how ‘infrastructure improvements’ must include school reform.  School reform?  President Reagan commissioned a comprehensive schools report in 1983.  After 34 years, have we learned nothing?  In fact, we have.  And we’re fortunate to have an Education Secretary in Betsy DeVos who has the right ideas about fixing our education system.

Trump’s Lifeboat For Ag Exports?

7:40 PM 02/06/2017

Feelings are running low in farm country – those states where Trump won in the election.  In truth, feelings generally run low there – farmers never seem to have a ‘good’ year.  Either the harvest is damaged and small, or booming and driving down prices.  It’s latter right now. Further, farmers were looking forward to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as the gateway to exporting more agricultural products and commodities. But TPP is dead.  What will President Trump do?

Here’s How Trump Can Easily Lower Drug Prices

12:49 AM 01/19/2017

Although President-Elect Trump wants to lower drug prices, he may not know about a tool he can use to not only push prices down, but also lower medical costs.  The answer:  change the FDA’s regulations to make more commonly prescribed drugs ‘Over the Counter’ (OTC).

Lessons Of Truman’s Undelivered Farewell Address

9:50 AM 01/13/2017

Sixty-four years ago this Sunday, Harry S. Truman delivered his farewell address to the nation. It was windy, and in my opinion rather dull. However, the undelivered version in Truman’s autobiography has nuggets of truth for President Obama, President-Elect Trump, and all Americans. Most importantly, Truman tells us the President is not a king or potentate but a human being who occupies the Office for four or eight years, and then returns to being a private citizen.

Trump: A New Sheriff Against Wasteful Spending

10:22 AM 12/09/2016

President-elect Trump did a good thing when he got angry and talked to the CEO of Boeing over the high cost of building a new fleet of Air Force One planes.  While this was a good start, it was just the tiny tip of the federal fiscal iceberg.  If Trump really wants to roll up his sleeves and conquer federal waste, he should invite two men to Trump Tower:  former Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Trump Should Give Us Real “Catastrophic” Health Insurance

6:13 PM 11/22/2016

There are two paths to healthcare reform for President-Elect Trump: the huge legislation way (e.g., the method that brought us Obamacare), or what I call the Ted Kennedy way – incremental but constant changes.  Teddy’s way was stealthy – inserting a clause into one piece of legislation, deleting a clause in another.  For Trump, I think Teddy’s way has a better chance of success than a blockbuster bill stuffed with goodies to get enough votes for passage.  If Trump decides on an incremental approach, catastrophic health insurance would be a good first step.

Reince Priebus Is Not Paul Ryan’s Puppet

5:16 PM 11/17/2016

The anxious and sometimes vicious chatter about the Trump transition reminds me of the doomsday guy who always parked his car in front of a popular Wilmington coffee shop.  His car was plastered with messages on how the world was coming to an end on a certain day.  As we know, he was wrong.  And so are those who see nasty times coming replete with theories about … everything.  Currently Trump faces a steep learning curve – one studded with landmines – but I think he will do fine in the end.

A Mole In Trump’s Transition Team?

1:11 PM 11/14/2016

In a mere few hours it seems DC insiders are trying to unravel the policies that got Donald Trump elected.  Exhibit A: Rolf Lundberg as director of ‘trade reform’. What’s wrong with Lundberg?  He’s been a longtime legislative lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce:  the organization that supports increased immigration, all free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific-Partnership, Chinese imports, etc.

Evita Rodham Clinton?

11:06 AM 11/02/2016

Living in the Philadelphia media market, watching television means enduring the battle of the political ads.  I’ve found Hillary’s latest ad very interesting.  In it, she says how America’s success is measured by the success of its children, and all the wonderful things she will do for them when she is president.  For the ancient Romans, Hillary would be the ‘Bona Dea’ – the goddess providing good things to children and families.  Today, however, I think Hillary may aspire to be the next Eva Perón, who, although she died in 1952, retains the title of ‘The Spiritual Leader of the Nation of Argentina.’

Nail-Polish Politics

6:51 PM 10/27/2016

America’s politics-free zones continue to shrink.  I thought we had reached the limit when obituaries started to have political messages.  The other day, I read one that said the deceased was proud to cast her vote for the nation’s first female president.  Now I see that politics has intruded into a drugstore’s cosmetics aisle.

Speaking The Truth About The Economic ‘Recovery’

12:48 PM 10/14/2016

Finally, a Federal Reserve official has spoken out on the so-called recovery in the American economy.  He’s Eric S. Rosengren, the president of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank.  [The Fed has its headquarters in D.C. and regional banks that provide input to the Fed’s monetary policy.]  Rosengren is known as a maverick by Fed-watchers, and his remarks delivered today in Boston confirm this.