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Fiscal situation: is it worse than the 1930s?

Dan Liljenquist is blunt when talking about the fiscal situation of the United States: the country appears worse off now than it was during the Great Depression.

Liljenquist, appearing at a forum in the Snyderville Basin on Tuesday night, argued fundamental changes are needed to ensure the country is fiscally stable. The nation is in a bind with Social Security and Washington cannot simply raise taxes to solve the issue, he said.

"Reality is not negotiable," Liljenquist said during a panel discussion at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church sponsored by a group called the Park City Area Project for Deeper Understanding.

Liljenquist made some of the strongest statements of the evening as he sat on a panel made of Republicans and Democrats. Liljenquist is a Republican from Bountiful who unsuccessfully challenged Orrin Hatch for the party’s Senate nomination this year and once served in the state Senate.

He implied that an economic crash is looming, pointing to the impact of the Federal Reserve’s accommodating policies.

In an interview afterward, Liljenquist predicted a "crash of our monetary system" if the federal government does not address spending and debt.

"You cannot continue to borrow like you’re borrowing and not expect a stopping point," he said in an interview, adding, "Name one society, ever, that’s been able to do what we’re doing and make their way out of it."

The event drew approximately 80 people with differing political philosophies. Some of the political figures in the audience included Donna McAleer, who is a Democrat challenging for Congress, and Democratic Summit County Councilors Chris Robinson and Claudia McMullin.

The panel included Joel Briscoe, who is a Democratic state legislator, and the leaders of the Summit County Republican and Democratic parties. Henry Glasheen, the chairman of the local Republicans, and Glenn Wright, who chairs the county’s Democratic Party, made a rare appearance together in a public setting.

The panelists covered a range of topics dealing with fiscal matters, with there appearing to be agreement between the two sides on some points, including that tough decisions are approaching the nation. They spent time on the overarching idea of budget cuts. Wright, a Vietnam War veteran, mentioned that some military bases could be closed while Glasheen acknowledged the difficulty in making decisions about budget reductions.

"We have to go in and cut things that people don’t agree on," Glasheen said.

But McAleer, addressing the room during a question-and-answer session, said it is difficult to succeed in the public or private sectors by strictly reducing costs.

"No government can cut their way to greatness," she said, noting that the revenue side of the federal ledger must also be addressed.

McAleer, who is from the Snyderville Basin and fended off a primary challenger to win the Democratic nomination, also said that she does "not think corporations are people," a reference to a widely publicized statement earlier in the presidential campaign by Republican White House contender Mitt Romney.

Some other highlights included:

  • Briscoe and Wright saying they do not favor a flat tax rate, which requires people to pay at the same rate regardless of their income.
  • Glasheen telling the audience the U.S. is "in a political chase-your-tail situation"
  • Wright arguing that policies during George W. Bush’s administration led to the size of the national debt
  • Liljenquist saying the federal tax system must be "predictable and fair" with everyone paying at least something
  • Briscoe saying Americans want a tax plan that provides certainty


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