LAS VEGAS—Media mogul Steve Forbes and former Quantum Fund co-founder and fellow author Jim Rogers headlined the first full day of the FreedomFest conference here and criticized Washington lawmakers who are sputtering in their efforts to reform health care and tax policies, as well as reduce government debt.
The consequences of such ineffectiveness could be painful for investors but Forbes offered specific health care legislative advice that would remove government-imposed mandates to force everyone to buy coverage or otherwise pay a tax. Rogers cautioned that countries such the United States and others that are sinking more deeply into debt are setting up the global economy to endure a worse-than-usual downturn in the next two or three years.
A way forward for the U.S. government would be to adopt tax reform, sound money policies and health care legislation aimed at “fixing” the badly flawed Affordable Care Act, commonly known as ObamaCare, Forbes said.
Forbes, a long-time flat-tax advocate, said Democrats have caught Republicans unprepared to respond to a media “narrative” about how many millions of people would lose coverage if so-called ObamaCare is repealed and replaced, rather than focus on whether America really has a health-care crisis when other industries that have rising demand for services would view such a situation as positive.
Rising demand usually provides opportunities for “entrepreneurs and innovators,” Forbes said.
The current system rewards hospital officials for how well they negotiate with government and big insurance companies, not how well and cost-effectively they provide services, Forbes said. Advocates of a single-payer health care system would take a model that has failed those who have relied on the U.S. Veterans Administration and force it upon all Americans, Forbes cautioned.
For example, Forbes asked attendees at the main session attended by more than 1,000 people whether the “crummiest” hotel would put a customer into a room with a sick person and only separate them with a sheet between their beds to serve as a partition.
To fix the current U.S. health care system, Forbes recommended not only ending the mandate that every employer buy insurance but also allow nationwide shopping for health insurance, equal tax treatment for all and requiring every hospital and clinic to post prices for their various services.
Lawmakers also should vote for a tax cut, Forbes said.
Rogers followed up in a brief interview after he appeared in a panel discussion Thursday morning to warn that the U.S. economy’s historic pattern of enduring a downturn every four to eight years indicates people should prepare for such a prospect to occur in the next 2-3 years. In 2008, the U.S. economy took a big hit because of too much debt.
Since the debt load was grown much further since then, Rogers forecasted a much worse problem the next time the economy falters.
“If you’re not worried, you are not knowledgeable,” Rogers said.
Keith Fitz-Gerald, chief investment strategist with Baltimore-based Total Wealth Research, agreed with Rogers about the economic risk ahead but went further to claim lawmakers need to reduce business regulation or risk dooming the “next five generations” of Americans to “has-been” or “second-tier” status in the global community.
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, did not appear at FreedomFest but he engaged in a rant recently that expressed frustration with big-government bureaucracy and lawmakers of all political stripes to show that even corporate chiefs dislike the country’s burdensome barriers.
Among FreedomFest’s politically focused speakers, Larry Elder, a Salem Media radio host, said the 2016 election mainly was a referendum about the economy.
President Obama did not deliver on his promise to bridge the economic gap between blacks and whites, said Elder, who added America is enduring the weakest economic recovery since 1949.
Michael Medved, another Salem Media radio host, said the election was a massive rejection of big government and tax increases.
Joel Stern, a finance professor at a number of universities around the world, predicted that adoption of a 20% tax rate in America would boost economic growth to 4% GDP.
Wednesday night’s presentations also featured a speech from investigative journalist James O’Keefe, who recently obtained video footage of CNN employees, including producers and host Van Jones, saying that reporting about pre-election ties between President Trump and Russians had not found any evidence of illegalities.
Greed to maximize profits, laziness and cost are three reasons why the mainstream media seems reluctant to pursue the investigative journalism of the past that has become the niche of O’Keefe and his Project Veritas organization, he told attendees.
Conference organizers said on Thursday that 2,078 people have registered for FreedomFest thus far and 1,696 of those have checked in for the event that goes through Saturday night.
Paul Dykewicz is the editor of www.stockinvestor.com and the editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C. He writes and edits for the website, as well as edits investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts and other reports. He also is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, USA Today and other publications, as well as served as business editor of a daily newspaper in Baltimore. In addition, Paul is the author of the inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain.” He received his MBA in finance from Johns Hopkins University.