Senator Orrin Hatch recently felt the need to organize and host a forum titled “The Fiscal Future of America,” wherein voters could ask questions and voice their concerns with regard to the country’s current economic state.
“My office has received literally thousands of letters, phone calls, and e-mails from Utahns who are extremely concerned about America’s fiscal future,” stated Hatch in a press release. “I envision this forum as a way for our citizens to have an opportunity to not only listen to some speakers who have been at the forefront of our economy, but to ask questions of the experts and provide feedback to me that I can arm myself with for this fight in Washington.”
Co-sponsored by the UVU Office of the President, The Woodbury School of Business and The Center for the Study of Ethics, the Aug. 28 forum featured two-time presidential candidate and Forbes Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Steve Forbes. Douglas Holtz Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, was also present. Although Hatch himself expected to attend, the senator was not present, having been called to eulogize at Ted Kennedy’s funeral. Hatch arranged for Gary Herbert to stand in for him. However, the newly-appointed governor did not stay for the entirety of the forum.
According to press releases, topics to be discussed included “Is Capitalism Dead?” “Are Entitlement Programs a Cancer on Our Future?” and “The Basics of the Federal Budget: Where It Comes From and Where It Goes.” However, due to conservative concern over healthcare reform, the discussion hovered mainly around subjects such as the insurance market, death panels, the “specter of socialism” and what Forbes sees as Obama’s cartoon view of free enterprise and romanticized fantasy of Western Europe.
Forbes and Eakin both shared many suggestions to mend economic conditions in the United States. “Capitalism is a moral system,” Forbes said. “There are positive ways of dealing with health care and social security, and one is to not underestimate the American people. Remember the 1980s after the economic malaise of the 1970s.
Under Reagan, we recovered very quickly.
Right now we need not one Reagan, but ten thousand Mini-Reagans.” Many times Forbes and Eakin decried Obama’s propositions on health care and energy concerns, stating that government interference with these industries would result in a stranglehold on innovation. “When you read Obama, when you listen to him, he talks about sustainability – which is the opposite of innovation” said Forbes. In light of the current recession, Forbes and Eakin both advocated the shrink of government influence, citing in particular the economic crisis of 1920. “Although it was much more severe in its beginnings than what we now refer to as The Great Depression, by cutting spending and taxes, the government ended that particular financial storm so quickly that we barely remember it,” said Eakin.
With the presence of a large right-wing constituency came many of the buzzwords made familiar by clips from Town Hall Meetings across the country. The oft-used connection between Death Panels and Nazi ideology was present. The implication of Washington as a dark entity was invoked several times by presenters and audience alike. Many times Forbes and Eakin were forced to pause in their remarks, due to spontaneous applause from the audience, which was elicited by even the most basic phraseology in the conservative litany.
When Jackson France, a UVU student and small business owner, asked about the best way for young people to get their voices heard on the issue of tax reform, Forbes’ remark that the young man was “an enemy of the Obama state” the crowd began hooting and clapping in agreement. When Eakin was asked what President Obama’s health care plan meant for the next generation in layman’s terms, his immediate and concise statement, “You’re toast,” generated a much larger and louder response than the economist’s subsequent elaboration.
However, not all who were present at the forum were impressed with the conversational content. Some felt that Forbes and Eakin were guilty of an accusation that they levied against President Obama – e.g. speaking merely in platitudes. One UVU student, an unidentified Political Science major, said of the pair’s comments, “I understand more why you’re saying what you’re saying than I do about what you’re saying.”
The remark was not met with any notable applause.