American Consequences - November 2020

There is little that I can say or write about the current wonderful state of affairs of the U.S. that Debbie Downers can’t rebut. If you are hell-bent on making the negative case, there’s no changing your mind. But if you’re open to facts and logic, there’s one hell of a good case to be made for being grateful for all we do have and to be optimistic about the future. And as an 80-year-old economist, I firmly believe that the glass is half full...


I was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1940 and raised in Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie. During my formative years, the greater Cleveland City Council coined the statement that Cleveland was “The Best Location in the Nation.” Our rebuttal was Cleveland is “The Mistake on the Lake.” In fact, the joke back then was that if Christ were to come back to Earth in Cleveland, in order to prove that he were the Christ, he wouldn’t have to walk on the water – heck, anyone could walk on the polluted water of Lake Erie – he’d have to sink in the water. A quote from the time: “ Anyone who falls in the Cuyahoga does not drown. He decays. ” (Cleveland citizen quoted in Time magazine, August 1, 1969)

The growth of the 19th and 20th centuries was borne by the waterways that transported goods, people, and unfortunately, waste. The Cuyahoga River became so polluted with industrial waste that it caught fire 13 times! Due in part to the 1969 Cuyahoga fire, Congress passed the National Environment Policy Act (“NEPA”) in 1970, which led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Clean Water Act – the last of which mandated that water be clean enough for humans and fish to safely swim in and devoted funds to cleanup efforts. By the 2000s, the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie met or exceeded most EPA benchmarks. Today, Lake Erie is clean. The Cuyahoga River no longer catches fire, and each breath of air in Youngstown is no longer five calories... Even the Hudson River isn’t so polluted.

By Arthur B. Laffer, PhD

American Consequences


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