Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?

By Paul Beckner

Where do we go from here?

Over the past few days, America has mourned the senseless loss of lives in New York and Washington, D.C. Now we must begin to brace for the future and prepare against any new threats to our liberties. Terrorists may have attacked our buildings and destroyed our property, but they cannot extinguish the ingenuity and spirit that built our nation. As a nation, we face two important challenges. First, we must secure our people against further attacks and terrorist threats. Second, we must rebuild and strengthen our economy, unleashing the entrepreneurship and creativity that generated the prosperity we enjoy today.

President Bush is already moving forward with plans to ensure Americans are safe in their communities. These efforts will inevitably command significant taxpayer resources. Indeed, Congress has already appropriated $40 billion in new spending to fund anti-terrorist and rebuilding efforts.

But we must also work quickly to shore up our economy to counteract terrorist attempts to thwart our economic growth. The assault on the World Trade Center was also an attack on the economic freedoms of every American. The economy faced challenges before September 11, 2001, and the pro-growth policies that made good sense then are now an economic imperative.

Our economy is stronger than that of any other nation. We produce more than 20 percent of the world’s economic output, providing goods and services for people around the globe. Foreign markets are critical to many American businesses, and we must ensure that their doors remain open. Terrorist attempts to disrupt the world economy cannot stand.

Here at home, we must invigorate the creative abilities of the entrepreneurs and innovators who have fueled our economy. Now, more than ever, policymakers should take steps to simplify the tax code, free up needed capital and spur new economic growth. This could be accomplished by simply making President Bush’s tax cut permanent and eliminating the capital gains tax.

At the same time, unnecessary regulations that stifle economic activity must be re-examined. As the stock sell-off since the attack attests, the terrorist assault may be one of the greatest single economic disturbances in generations. We should not compound this uncertainty with regulations that thwart productivity and add an element of regulatory risk to investment decisions.

In light of the recent terrorist attacks, U.S. energy policy takes on an ethical dimension. Our unwillingness to meet more of our energy needs at home may have helped strengthen our enemies abroad. No one denies that fuel and energy markets must be global to function at their current level. However, our ever-increasing dependence on foreign sources of energy has afforded some foreign governments undue influence over the U.S. economy. Furthermore, given current technology, the fears of environmental devastation in sensitive areas of the country are highly exaggerated or imagined. However, the threat of further terror and violence against our fellow citizens is decidedly real. We must find ways to meet our own energy needs to protect our nation and our personal freedom.

Finally, our government needs to be prudent in its spending. A war against terrorism is a costly endeavor that will take an increasing share of the government’s resources. Fiscal discipline will be required to ensure that wasteful government programs do not detract form our focus. Spending priorities should be established, and traditional pork barrel politics should halt. Revisiting domestic spending priorities is now an economic necessity.

Ultimately, the strength of our country relies on the strength of our economy. A thriving economy is an important component of America’s security. As we move to eradicate terrorism, we cannot forget what made our country strong in the first place.

Paul Beckner is president of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a grassroots organization that educates and motivates its more than 300,000 members. He can be reached at 1250 H Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005.

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