Life on and off the waters of the Wood River Valley
One Idahoan’s plan to save the American dream
Aaron Swisher is not your run-of-the-mill American. In fact, “Swish,” as his friends often call him, is the type of person that Henry David Thoreau would be proud of. For when it comes to economic theories and the hope for the nation’s future, Aaron Swisher steps to the beat of a “different drummer,” as Thoreau advised. And it looks like the country might be a lot better off we all started tapping along.
The West Virginia native, who attended Boise State on a wrestling scholarship, has long had a passion for economics—a passion and knowledge that paid off when he predicted the housing market crash and the following downward national economic spiral long before it happened. Just before it all started to go south, Swisher sold his home in the Treasure Valley at the height of the market and used his profits to travel around the world while the “Great Recession” was ravishing the country.
Now back in Boise, having bought another home at the bottom of the market, the expert kayaker has published his first book, “Resuscitating America: An Independent Voter’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream.” Available at Chapter One Bookstore in Ketchum and online here, the book is easy-to-read for those of us not very economically minded (like myself) and still technical enough to appeal to financially savvy folks. It offers several simple and straightforward ways to improve the national economy and quality of life for most Americans. Former Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick calls the book, “A must read for anyone concerned about our nation having a future.”
Here, Swisher answers some questions about the book and the hope it offers for America’s economy.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love economics. It’s what I think about constantly. I started writing as a form of therapy—to release the buildup of frustration caused by hearing so much economic misinformation spread by politicians, pundits, and even some economists and business professionals. After writing on so many facets of the economy, I realized that what is missing in most economic discussions, and what the country really needs, is a comprehensive economic plan. So that’s what I put together.
Now that the housing industry is starting to show signs of life again, what’s the next big hurdle for the national economy?
I think the biggest hurdle all along has been our excessive level of income disparity. It’s really the basis of all of our other problems: the housing collapse, our political polarization, our over-reliance on government safety net programs, an increase in our social problems and breakdown of the family. The list goes on and on. One of my biggest frustrations with the Obama Administration is that they continually seem to be playing “whack-a-mole” with the country’s problems—tackling the housing crisis, trying to solve the healthcare problem, addressing unemployment by extending benefits and creating worker retraining programs. If we had a good, comprehensive economic plan, one that solved the income disparity problem, these other problems would all shrink in magnitude, if not completely disappear.
Is greed ultimately the biggest problem with the national economy?
It definitely ranks up there near the top. It’s the reason that a lot of jobs are exported. It’s the reason our healthcare system doesn’t work for a lot of people. And it’s the reason our political system is so dysfunctional.
Energy independence and environmental sustainability are two big issues you marry in the book, what is the key to a successful relationship between the two?
Well, your best solutions are always going to come from markets, but only if those markets are working properly. For that to happen, prices in a given market need to reflect the full range of costs associated with that product. When it comes to energy, the prices of our traditional energy sources (coal, oil, natural gas, etc.) just don’t reflect the true costs. If they did, people would demand less of them—because their prices would be higher—and alternative energy sources would be more price-competitive.
Your timeline for balancing the budget seems really aggressive. I don’t hear anyone else putting forth plans to balance the budget that quickly. Is your timeline realistic?
I think it is. And the reason I can balance the budget so quickly is that I’ve gotten the economics right. Democrats try to stimulate the economy by increasing government spending. Republicans rely on tax cuts. Both of these methods negatively affect the budget. Because my plan actually fixes the root problem with our economy, it doesn’t have to rely on government stimulus, so we can revive the economy and balance the budget at the same time.
Now that former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum seemed to hit a nerve when he suggested that ending the corporate tax rate for manufacturing would turn things around. Is he right?
I can’t believe how off base this whole argument over corporate taxes is. Even Obama is calling for lower corporate taxes. And the driver of the whole conversation is our loss of jobs to other countries. We are not losing jobs to countries like China because of our corporate tax rates. Simply look at the numbers: our top marginal tax rate is 35%. The same rate in China is 25%. So there’s a 10% point difference there. Now compare labor rates. China’s wage rates are less than 20% of those here in the U.S., so if you’re a business owner considering whether or not to move production to China, what is more enticing, an 80% point reduction in your labor costs or a 10% point reduction in your profit tax? It’s a no-brainer, and you don’t have to be a business owner or have a doctorate in economics to figure it out. I’m not saying that we might not have to adjust our corporate tax policies. I’m just saying that it’s not the driver of companies exporting American jobs. Of course, much of our political discourse is influenced by corporate CEOs and lobbyists, and a corporate tax cut is what they want. So a corporate tax cut is what we’re told we need.
Which presidential candidate gives us the most hope for a real recovery?
I’ve stopped looking towards the Democrats and Republicans; they simply don’t have a decent grasp on the country’s real problems and how to solve them. I’ll most likely vote for Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City. He’s running as the candidate for the newly-formed Justice Party and he’s got a good grasp of the real issues. Some people might call that a wasted vote, but in my mind, if you vote for someone that you know doesn’t have the right solutions, that is a wasted vote.
What kind of fiscal shape is Idaho in compared with the rest of the nation?
Idaho is doing pretty well, given the circumstances. I’d like to see wages come up for working class folk, but that is a problem everywhere in America. I know a lot of states are battling with difficult economies, budget problems and spending priorities. Even states that are well run are having a rough time. What few people seem to realize is that these problems stem from our biggest national economic problem—our oversized income disparity—so states are kind of limited in what they can do. We really need an economic solution on the national level, that’s what “Resuscitating America” is all about.