In this episode Linda interviews noted economist, Stephen (Steve) Moore. Steve has a long list of accomplishments and is widely known for his passionate belief in limited government, lower taxes, and individual liberty.
He is a former member of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, is a co-founder of The Committee to Unleash Prosperity, and serves as the Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Project for Economic Growth, at The Heritage Foundation. He is a popular speaker, news commentator, and author.
You’ll enjoy this fast-paced and informative interview that is full of economic wisdom and Steve’s one-of-a-kind wit and humor. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, and you will be empowered with information that supports free-market capitalism as the only path to true freedom, opportunity, and prosperity.
Linda J. Hansen: Today my special guest is my good friend, Steve Moore. Steve is the distinguished visiting fellow project for economic growth at the Heritage Foundation and the senior economic contributor for FreedomWorks. He is along with Dr. Art Laffer and Steve Forbes, a founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity. He was the original founder of Club for Growth, and has served as the senior economic editor for The Wall Street Journal editorial board. Steve is also an advisor and contributor to my Prosperity 101 program. We've worked on that for a long time together. And he's well known for his sense of humor, and his economic wisdom. I'm pleased to welcome my friend and co-laborer, Steve Moore.
Steve Moore: Hi Linda, great to see you again.
Linda: Thank you. Thank you so much for being here.
Steve: Thanks for bringing me to chilly Wisconsin.
Linda: Yeah, I know. We have a lot of jokes about me bringing you to Wisconsin for different events over the years. So, Steve, you know that with the Prosperity 101 program, I've always worked to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how they can protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved and impactful. For those who don't know, I am going to let them know that when I first came up with the idea for the program, I called you and I said, "Help, I know enough about economics to be dangerous, but not enough to be an expert." And I told you what I wanted to do.
Steve: We've been working on this now for well over 10 years.
Linda: For over 10 years. Yes.
Steve: And it's been impactful, and I'm so proud of the program we've put together. Look, a lot of people when they hear economics, they shriek, "Oh, my goodness, I hate, I hated economics when I was in high school. I don't understand all these curves going this way and that way." And what we try to do with Prosperity 101, which I think we've done very effectively, because we've, you know, tested this out in so many audiences.
Linda: Yes, we tested it. Right.
Steve: We try to make economics understandable, impactful and fun.
Linda: Right, relatable.
Steve: And so, it's a great way to just get the basics without being intimidated. Look, economics is simple. This is not complicated stuff. It's common sense. It's only the economic PhDs who make it so difficult, and they're the ones who actually don't really understand the way economy works. And so, it's common sense. It's-- a lot of it is just human nature, how do people change their behavior when—you know, if a tax rate goes up, you're going to buy less of it, as my good friend Arthur Laffer says, "If you tax something, you get less of it. If you tax something less, you get more of it." These aren't complicated things. You know, my favorite quote from the famous economists is Milton Friedman, and this is something everyone, before they vote in the 2020 election, should take a heart. Milton Friedman said a lot of famous things, but one of his most famous quotes was, "There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch."
Steve: And what he meant by that was if you give-- if the government gives you something, somebody has to pay for it, right? If you're not going to pay for it directly, then you're going to pay for it either through your taxes, or you’re going to have to have somebody else pay for it. And that's an extremely inefficient way to provide goods and services in the economy. Everybody seems to think, like, the liberals especially, like this money comes down from heaven and we can spend it, no, the government can only spend a $1 when it takes a $1 from you. We need to make sure that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders understand that. I was watching the other night, one of the Democratic debates and Bernie Sanders was saying, "In my plan on health care, everything's going to be free." And I'm like, that's a horrible-- look, we all want more affordable health care.
Linda: We all want good healthcare for everyone.
Steve: Yeah, exactly. But the idea, if you start you know moving towards a basically government run system for healthcare, you're going to destroy the quality of care. Can you imagine if healthcare were free? what it would be like to go to the Milwaukee emergency room on a Friday night? There'd be 800 people lined out the door you know for a hangnail. No, you want them-- actually the reason people have to pay for the services they provide is it's a way of regulating who gets it and who doesn't. And so, I'm very nervous because healthcare is one of our most important industries, and when the liberals talk about, "Oh, the government is going run it, they're going to give it to you for free." That's what really should make people shriek.
Linda: Right. Right. In the Prosperity 101 program, we've always taught that government can't give you anything until they take something from you first.
Steve: That's so true. That's a great law of economics.
Linda: And when they give something back to you, one, you have less choice about what it is, and it's always less than what you gave in. So, it really diminishes the return.
Steve: Yeah, and we show in our Prosperity 101 because we use a lot of just very simple charts that are really easy to understand. And what we show is things like when the tax rates come down, the economy actually gets better, there's more jobs, controlling inflation. That's something we live in a world right now with a 50 year low and inflation. When I was in college, the inflation rate was 15%. And so, get keeping...
Linda: I mean interest rates were sky high back then.
Steve: Oh, yeah 20% merchant's rate.
Linda: Yes, I remember.
Steve: And now get a mortgage rate for three and a half percent. I think, by the way, a lot of young people, Linda. I think because we've had such a great economy over the last three or four years, people sort of take it for granted. "Oh, you know, we have the lowest unemployment rate. We have a 7 million surplus jobs. Oh, how did that happen?" I think because we cut taxes. We reduce the regulatory burden on our businesses. We promoted American energy. We got government off the back of our businesses so they could succeed. We're in a global economy now folks today. Every time we put extra weights on the back of our businesses, that only benefits the businesses of the countries that we're competing with. That's why, again, when I hear Elizabeth Warren say, "We're going to have all these new regulations on American businesses, we're going to split apart the big companies," and so on. Wait a minute, that's not going to benefit Americans, that's going to benefit the countries to compete with us, and it's going to lead to the jobs leaving the United States and going to China, Mexico, Indonesia, India, we don't want that.
Linda: We don't want that. One of the things with Prosperity 101 is helping employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that do affect their jobs. And so, as we look at this, I've really tried to make it non-partisan. So even though it may or may not affect...
Steve: Well, because economics is non-partisan, this isn't political.
Steve: Well, this is just common sense.
Linda: Exactly, it's common sense.
Steve: And I can't tell you how many times we've done so many dozens of these events with employers where they invite the employees to come in if they've—you know, it's voluntary if they want to learn a little bit about economics. And I can't tell you, Linda, how many times the workers who attend these seminars, they'll come up to me afterwards and say, "Thank you. I've never heard these ideas before."
Linda: Yes, I agree.
Steve: I've never-- nobody ever told me about this stuff. And so that's really gratifying when people say, "You really opened up my eyes to this. I didn't realize, gee. Yeah, but we raised taxes 70-80 to 90% on the rich, they're the people who provide the jobs. They're going to pull back, that's going to hurt me, the worker." And that's absolutely true, but you know, sometimes we help connect the dots for this folks.
Linda: We help connect the dots, exactly. And I know when we used to-- when we were doing workshops together quite a bit before with Prosperity 101 workshops. One of your lines was, "So, when have you ever had a job from a poor person?"
Steve: Yeah. That's so true.
Linda: This is true, I mean, I think business owners, business leaders, they get a bad rep because they may be the owner of the company, but people have no idea the challenges they face as they try to provide those jobs and create steady paychecks.
Steve: One of the things I really hope with Prosperity 101, and the work I do more broadly is, especially when I talk to young people, because we want to get this in the hands of young people because folks, they're not learning economics in high school or college, or the economics that they get isn't very good. And one of the things I always tell the young people is, "Look, you want to help your fellow man, you want to really leave a mark on your society, you want to purpose in your life, the most impactful thing you can do if you want to help your fellow man is start a business."
Linda: Start a business.
Steve: "You start a business, you employ people, you provide a living and a livelihood for them." That's-- I mean to me, that's one of the highest calling.
Linda: It is. It is. And to have a healthy business in America, right now. Our business climate over the past few years in the current administration is so much better. Can you give a few examples of how it's improved in this administration?
Steve: Well, we reduced regulations, by the way, we all want clean air, we all want clean water, we want safe workplaces, we want to find financially sound system. So, you know, we need guardrails.
Linda: And we want people to be able to come to our country to achieve the opportunity.
Steve: Absolutely, legally.
Linda: Legally, through the front door.
Steve: We are all in favor of legal immigrants who want to come and share our freedoms and work hard and get ahead, that's what America is all about. But, you know, I always say, the regulations should be guardrails, not roadblocks, right?
Linda: Right, exactly.
Steve: Guardrails, keep them on the road, and not bring the businesses to a smashing halt. And unfortunately, under Obama, a lot of the regulators just didn't like business and they wanted to-- they felt like business was the enemy. Business is not the enemy.
Linda: Not the enemy. Business is the producer.
Steve: There's some bad employers and there's some bad people out there, but unbalanced the employers or the people, as my old boss Dick Armey used to say, "Liberals love jobs, but they hate employers." Well, you can't have jobs without the person who sets out the shingle and starts the business and takes the risk, and we need more of that. We want, I want more of these young people to go into starting a business, and there's nothing more gratifying. The other thing I always say to the workers, when we do these seminars is, "Who the last person is, who gets paid in the business?"
Linda: It's the owner. Right.
Steve: It's the owner. Right. The workers get their paycheck. The contractors get theirs. The people provide all the equipment and stuff, they get paid. And only if there's some money left over, does the employer actually get paid. And I know this, you know this, we've had our businesses, sometimes you don't get money, sometimes you don't have a paycheck.
Linda: We don't.
Steve: Because sometimes you go negative and you have to take money out of your bank account.
Linda: My parents had restaurants when I was in high school, and we have restaurants up in the Twin Cities. And to this day, people remember 40 some years later, which shows how old I am, but people still remember the recipes, the tastes, they want it replicated, everything, and the past employees still talk about what a great experience it was to work with us at those restaurants. What they don't know is that when my parents were really trying to make those restaurants work, they emptied my savings account. As a 17-year old kid, they emptied my savings account to pay payroll.
Steve: And that's the risk-taking though.
Linda: And we made it through.
Steve: Yeah, you do.
Linda: We made it through and we were successful and my parents were able to eventually retire, sell the restaurants, and it was great, but people have no idea what it takes to run a business.
Steve: And that's why I hate the one thing that's going on in our culture that I think is unhealthy is to look at somebody who's successful a millionaire or billionaire. I think Bernie Sanders the other day said, "Nobody in this country should be a billionaire." Wait a minute, look at the people that are the billionaires; Zuckerberg, the people like Warren Buffett, the people like Fred Smith at FedEx. They employ hundreds of thousands of workers, they took the risk. By the way, I always say, with Google, people say, "Oh, Google is such a horrible company," and some of the political stuff I don't like. But, you know what? Nobody puts a gun to your head and tells you that you have to use Google, right?
Linda: Yes that you have to use Google.
Steve: People use Google because it provides a service.
Linda: Right. Because it works.
Steve: The only way-- this is one of my favorite laws of economics, "The only way a business can make money is providing you with something that you want." Right?
Linda: At a price you're willing to pay.
Steve: And a price you're willing to pay. So, the idea to these companies are getting rich. How did they get rich? They got rich by giving you something that you want, and that's different from government. How does government get money, it takes it from us.
Linda: It takes it from you. And it doesn't give you too much choice in how you get it back.
Steve: Whereas, business gets money because you voluntarily take that $5 bill out of your pocket and say, "Yes, I want that, and I'm willing to give up this $5 to get it." And so we call that a mutually beneficial exchange, because it's voluntary. I get the product, you get my $5, and we're both better off. That's the magic of the free enterprise system.
Linda: It really is. It really is. As we look at the coming elections and the future for our country, what would you tell employers about what they need to impart to their employees.
Steve: This will be an important -- we are not a partisan organization. So, I'm not going to say about anything who people should vote for.
Linda: Absolutely not.
Steve: But we want-- the whole idea of America. The reason we have a public education system is so we have an informed electorate, so they can make wise decisions.
Linda: Absolutely. But they need to have the full facts, they need to have the full information. That's what we are trying to do.
Steve: Exactly. And problem is have-- too many places and too many times, we don't have an informed electorate that really know the full facts. And we want to provide people with the information so they can, we can have an electorate that makes very good decisions about who our political leaders will be, but also the choices they make on their own. It's not just about elections, it's about the way you live your life. And one of the things we talk about in Prosperity 101 is how you can take the money that you earn, and let it grow, through ownership, through buying stock, and things like that. Too many people, they get their $500 paycheck, the first thing they do is go out spend the $500.
Linda: Spend it off, right, instead of letting grow.
Steve: It was Albert Einstein who said, "The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest." The interest that you earn on saving that money and investing it over 10 and 20 and 30 and 40 years is gigantic. And so, we want to instill that in young people too. Don't spend your whole paycheck, take 10% or 15% of it and save it, and then as you grow older, you'll have a nest egg that you can really count on.
Steve: Because guess what, social security is not going to pay your retirement folks. For young people, social security may not even be there. So retirement saving, that's something we cover a lot in Prosperity 101.
Linda: Right. Right. Right. Well, and as we look at this, this whole non-partisan concept of just basic economics, one of the things that people do not even realize, they don't know, is our free enterprise system, the basic rights we have under our Constitution. And as I've educated people through this program, I've had so many people come to me and say, "I've never read the Constitution. I didn't know the constitution said that. I didn't know that's what it meant." And so I feel that our opportunity with this program, as well as our responsibility, is to help people understand the blessings of the liberty we've been provided with our Constitution, but also the responsibilities that come with living in free society.
Steve: One of the things I say to every audience, especially young people is that freedom and liberty are such precious commodities and they're rare.
Linda: They're rare. They are actually rare.
Steve: That's why everybody in the world wants to-- I always say, "Why do you think we got all these people at the border want to come the United States?" Because we have economic freedom.
Linda: You are not going to Venezuela right now. Yeah, I know.
Steve: Exactly. And I'm not trying to get out of the country they're coming in. And that's indication that we got something that's really working well in America, but we have to always safeguard our freedoms and liberties. One of the things I always say to young people is, "Fight for your liberty, don't let the politicians take it away." This is the thing that just serves me, frankly, about this new generation. They seem to think that government is going to be their benefactor.
Linda: The answer.
Steve: We have to convince people. When I see polls that show 52% of college graduates think that socialism is the way to go, that's such a dangerous idea. And all they have to do is get 45 minutes of the Prosperity 101, and they don't believe that anymore. Because socialism, obviously, it's been a failure everywhere that it has been tried. For employers, you know, let's educate your employees about the dangers of socialism, and the danger it has to both our economy but also your individual liberty. I hear a lot of liberals now talking about, they want to tell you can't eat meat, there's going to be no more cows, there's going to be no more cars, there's going to be no airplanes, there's going to be-- they're going tell you what kind of-- what you set your thermostat in your house. The government's going tell you what kind of-- I can't have a, this is plastic straw, put them in jail. I mean, that's the kind of thing that the leftist has become more and more status and we have to-- it's an ideology of freedom and liberty, and letting people make their own decisions in their life, because if you're not making it for yourself, someone is making decisions for you.
Linda: Someone else it. Well, and that brings up a good point, in my Prosperity 101 program, one of the lessons that I have that employers can share with employees is so many isms, which one is best for me. And so basically, without telling people how to think or what they need to think, we help them understand how to make that decision, like what economic system should they support? And we asked them, what do you want for your own life? Who do you want to make the decisions for your life? Do you want your parents? Your government? Your employer? Who should make the decisions for your own life? And in our system, we get to make the decisions, right? But there are those in leadership, in different areas of government that would very much like to make those decisions for us. And so, helping young people to understand that that's part of what that entails that they lose those freedoms to make decisions, like where they want to work? Where they want to live? What kind of health care? Where your kids go to school? All of that.
Steve: And what kind of straw you can use in your drinks?
Linda: And what kind of straw you can use. Exactly. And so, that whole thing, I've had people laugh at the title, so many isms, which one is best for me. But people really don't understand that there's consequences. Ideas have consequences.
Steve: Well, it's my buddy Larry Kudlow always says. Larry Kudlow, who is my best man in my wedding, and the chief economist for Donald Trump, and just a dear, dear friend, and a great economist, obviously. He likes to say that, "The only ism that really works is free market capitalism."
Linda: Yes, exactly.
Steve: And I don't even know if we should use the word capitalism anymore. It's been so tainted, but free enterprise and free markets and freedom, that's what we're pitching with Property 101. We want everybody do better. We want every single worker, everyone to have a higher living standard. And I've lived through recessions, we can't take prosperity for granted. That's right. The people have to learn what prosperity is and how to get it, because we've lived through-- my parents lived through the Great Depression, I lived through the 1970s when the economy crashed.
Linda: And the gas lines. Yeah, I remember it, it was awful.
Steve: Oh my gosh. And then we even saw what happened. After the last recession, where we tried all these crazy ideas like a $900 billion economic stimulus, which is took a $1 from people gave it to the government, and somehow that was going to resurrect to our economy. And remember Cash for Clunkers and all these crazy ideas. We had Obamacare, which took over our health care system. All those things were I think, unbalanced negative. And we need to restore liberty, and that's why Prosperity 101 is a great, great education tool. By the way, I think a lot of even the employers should probably sit down with us too. Because I'd get frustrated with a lot of our fortune 500 CEOs who don't seem to understand.
Linda: Right. One thing that happens, I think when we live in freedom, a lot of times we become complacent. We can be… We take things for granted. Especially, when you have prosperity yourself, you take for granted how you got it. And I think that when we look at helping the employers and the employees understand these things at a very basic level, it really can transform our country.
Steve: We also need to get Prosperity 101, we want to get it in to businesses, schools. Schools are supposed to teach this stuff but they're not doing it. It's a great thing for-- you were telling me that you home-schooled your kids.
Linda: I did.
Steve: This is a great thing, you can have your kids watch the videos and so on that we produce.
Linda: If there's somebody listening today that has an entrepreneurship program or community organizations.
Steve: Community organizations, that kind of thing. Clubs, I mean, I go everywhere all over this country and people are-- they want to soak up this information, they're hungry for the ideas.
Linda: They do.
Steve: And again, it goes back to what we started this conversation. Educators make economics boring and intimidating and complicated.
Linda: But we can make it fun.
Steve: We make it fun, we make it simple, and we provide you some good financial advice, and I hope everyone will participate.
Linda: I do too. Well, thank you. And for those who would like to get in touch with you, what's the best way to get in touch with you?
Steve: Prosperity 101, I'm integrally involved in that. I can be reached at the Heritage Foundation. And so, I really appreciate what you do. I love partnering up with you on this, and let's get it on the road. Let's take this message to anybody who wants to hear it.
Linda: Well, it's an honor to work with you on this. And thank you so much for being a part of it. So, again, for those of you who may be unaware of how to get our Prosperity 101 program, I'd like you to go to prosperity101.org, that's prosperity101.org. And that's where we take people through the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved and impactful. So please contact us today. We'd love to talk with you, and we thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you.
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