Among the Polish leaders lost in the plane crash in Russia last weekend was Slawomir Skrzypek, head of the National Bank of Poland. Skrzypek was the architect behind the scenes of what has been Poland’s economic success over the last couple of years.
Americans know all too well the effects of the big drop in economic growth we suffered last year. That same fate has befallen virtually all of Europe. While Europe’s GDP has fallen by 2.2 percent over the last year, Poland’s grew by 3.1 percent. It is quite a feat for a country's economy to grow while its neighbors, and close trading partners, have been contracting.
Poland stands out because of its commitment to free-market policies, and Skrzypek pushed for this behind the scenes as well as ensuring a fairly stable money supply. Facing down the global economic crisis, Poland slashed marginal tax rates, cut government spending and temporarily suspended some government regulations. The U.S. and the rest of Europe adopted a Keynesian economic policy and went in the opposite direction.
On January 1, 2009, Poland cut its top marginal tax rate from 40 percent to 32 percent. More tax cuts are planned for the near future. What Poland understood is the importance of the marginal tax rate. The less you take from each additional zloty,(the Polish currency) that people earn, the harder they will work, the more they will invest and the bigger the economic pie will become.
Now, contrast Polish common sense with that of President Obama, who says ever-more government spending is the solution. According to Obama, "Economists on the left and right agree that the last thing the government should do during a recession is cut back on spending." Poland apparently found contrary advice from other economists. As revenue has fallen, the Polish government has done precisely what our president said not to do--cut back on government spending. Warsaw lowered government spending by 6 percent last fiscal year, while Mr. Obama's stimulus and supplemental federal spending helped the budget to soar by 18 percent.
Poland hasn’t escaped the economic turbulence completely unscathed, but Americans can only wish that our economy performed as well was that of Poland. Mr. Slawomir Skrzypek had a lot to do with that success.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a FoxNews.com contributor. He is an economist and author of "More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2010), the third edition will be published in May."
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