Tag Archives: economy

Brett Favre & The Economy Have One Thing In Common!

19 Aug

Brett Favre, Minnesota’s new starting quarterback and the United States economy have one thing in common.  They’re both not worth following on a day by day basis.

Will Brett play another year?  Will it be for Minnesota?  Will he stay retired?  Who knows, until it happens.

The same is true with the economy.  Each morning on the bus ride into work, I busy myself reading the news headlines on the Blackberry I’m addicted to.  And each morning I look for signs on which way Bush/Obama’s economy is going.  Every day, there are different clues.  Housing starts are up, oh, but wait luxury homes can’t be sold.  GM is increasing production, but consumer spending goes down.  Cash for clunkers is a hit.  No wait, it’s a bomb.   Hold on, it’s a hit again.

You know what?  I’m through with trying to anticipate Brett Favre or the economy.  How will it work out with the Vikings?  How long will he play for?  When will we have a solid recovery and what will it look like?  How much longer until my 401k recoups most of its losses?

Who knows!

It’ll happen when it happens, stupid…

So That’s What The President Is Supposed To Do!

8 Apr

What’s that you smell in the air, America?  Breathe it in deep and maybe you’ll remember.

It’s old fashioned leadership.

Barack Obama is only in office for 11 weeks so far and so he’s got lots of time to screw things up.  But, you’ve got to give it to the president for his strong start.

Yesterday, he goes to Iraq where he’s cheered by the troops he’s putting a reasonable plan in action to remove from danger.  A few days before he got the G-20 to commit to pumping a trillion dollars into the world economy.  And over a coffee break, he started working on getting the world rid of nuclear weapons.

Critics say the president is trying to do to much.  Perhaps they’ve got some valid concerns, but I think Obama himself answered those best.  To paraphrase, the president said you’ve got to aim high and try to do the tough things that need to be done when you’re president.  You may not accomplish all your goals but you stand a better chance if you actually aspire to high levels of achievement in the first place.

Wow!  That sure is refreshing.  After eight years of that other guy, we’re way past due for some real leadership based on intelligence and a larger understanding of the world.

And it may be paying off already for this administration.  Recent polls indicate the public solidly backs the president while giving low numbers to the GOP.

More importantly, Obama’s strong start may be benefiting the rest of us too.  You’re starting to see web headlines pop up about how people are feeling more confident about the economic future and how maybe things have started to come back a little.  It’s early and there’s still a lot of economic pain on the horizon, but my guess is that a big part of recovery is belief. 

It seems right now America has found someone to believe in and that is Barack Obama.

Risky Games! Does The President Or The GOP Have The Pulse Of The Nation?

26 Feb

I think it was soon after being elected that Barack Obama started making statements about how we needed to get the economy going again and so his administration wasn’t going to spend much time worrying about our record deficits.  The logic was job was to get America working again and once that was accomplished it’d be easier to cut our massive deficits.

As far as I could tell, Obama’s logic was widely accepted as reasonable.  People were willing to give him a short term pass on the deficit problem.  Most politicians would have stopped right there.

President Obama we may be finding out isn’t just any politician.  The President is proving to be a truly ambitious guy and a risk taker to boot.  Not only is he putting billions of dollars towards stimulating the economy, now he’s planning on cutting deficits at the same time.  Basically, he’s increasing spending massively while pledging to cut drastically.  That’s going to be one difficult trick to pull off.

These are tough times.  These are times that demand ambitious plans.  Perhaps our best bet is a comprehensive approach that tackles many of the big ticket items that ail and drain our economy:  Iraq, Afghanistan, deficits, health care, the auto industry, infrastructure problems.  I can go on…  So, maybe it’s all tied together and President Obama is wise to try to tackle it all while he’s still got the political capital to do it.

For the country’s sake and his own political future, he’d better be right.  Obama is persuring a high risk/high reward strategy.  If things work out, he may end up as one of our most accomplished leaders.  If the economy doesn’t turn around and if he’s unable to bring down the deficits, he risks being labeled as someone who could not deliver on bold promises made to a country in need of some good news. 

Obama could have chosen a safer route and everyone would have understood.  I admire his refusal to do so and pray that he’s right.

Speaking of the right… The GOP is clearly playing their own version of a high risk/high reward strategy.  Putting some context on  it, it’s very clear that at least in the House, Democrats have not been governing in much of a bi-partisan manner.  Republicans simply haven’t been given much input into writing bills like the recently passed stimulus package.  Furthermore, the GOP doesn’t have the numbers to block the Democrats from shutting them out.  So, y0u can understand why they’d be a bit grumpy.

Still, the GOP decision to stand idly by while the country continues to struggle is a big risk.  If things go well for them, things will go bad for the country.  That means that the GOP will be able to say “see, we told you so”.  Hmmmmm….  I wonder if the country is going to give them points for being right in the end or if people will wonder how the Republicans they elected to represent them could have sat out on the sidelines while things got worse and worse?

These are not ordinary times and so ordinary politics just won’t do.

Let’s look at the flip side, let’s say the economy improves.  What will Republicans say then?  Won’t the public remember a new president who spoke about bi-partisanship only to find very few Republicans willing to work with him at a time when the country needed them most?  Sure, as I noted earlier in this post, the Democrats in the House aren’t playing nice either.  The question is will the general public remember that?

Obama is clearly taking a massive risk.  Yet, I can see clearly how there’s a potential upside.  The GOP on the other hand is pursuing a risky strategy that seems destined to either leave them with no potential upside or very little even if they end up being right and Obama’s policies don’t improve the economy.

Perhaps Republicans aren’t understanding how bad time are?  How can some GOP governors say with a straight face that they might turn down stimulus money?  I’m suspecting that if I’m a struggling conservative everyman in a conservative state where services are being cut  at a  time when I need them and my governor is refusing aid, I would not be happy about it.  In times like these ideological concerns quickly give way to the practical.  Maybe that’s what the GOP isn’t grasping.

On the drive home this evening, I was listening to talk radio on NPR.  A small business owner called up and said she’d always been a Republican but can’t stand to see her party doing nothing during this crisis.  She told the host and his Republican Congressman guest (whose name I didn’t catch – my bad!) that the GOP keeps saying small business will lift us out of this mess.  The caller said she’s done all she can and now it’s time for government and politicians to help.

Listen, I know it’s NPR, but if the caller truly was a Republican than the GOP just might be in real trouble.  It really calls into question whether the party has the pulse of the nation.

My guess is no.

One Obama Supporter Asks For A Side Order Of Substance!

29 Jan

I don’t pretend to be an expert on economics or even what President Obama is advocating for in the coming massive bail out package.  I do pretend to be and am actually someone rooting hard for the new president to make good.

When Barack Obama first started talking about an economic rescue package he often referenced the things FDR did all those years ago to try to revive the battered American economy.  I’ve been reading a lot of opinions on what Obama is planning to do and one criticism keeps nagging at me.

Where is the substance?  What will be accomplished with all of the money?  Sure, we’ll spend it and hopefully it will point the economy in a better direction.  But, then what?

What will we have left behind?  I know that even FDR didn’t spend all of the cash on bricks and mortars stuff.  I also realize that this crisis gives the new president an opportunity to take on much more than the economic slump, as bad as it is.

It’s wise of President Obama and his team to think of ways to use this crisis to achieve changes to social programs and entitlements that greatly effect the American economy.

It’s just that I thought the actual investment in something concrete would be much deeper than what I’m hearing.  I may have the numbers a bit wrong but my recollection is that about $90 Billion will go toward repairing our highways and bridges and other infrastructure.

Not bad right?  Don’t be too sure.  Remember that the  recovery package is zooming past $800 Billion as I type and you read (thanks for that by the way).  So, the percentage going toward infrastructure isn’t as impressive when looked at as a percentage. 

Worse yet, let’s talk about Ike.  President Eisenhower, when he went about creating a nation highway system, funded it to the tune of $25 Billion and that was in 1950s dollars which would make it worth say 800 gajillion dollars today.  Ok, I made that gajillion thing up, but you get the point.  Again, that $90 Billion that Obama is offering isn’t so impressive in comparison.  And PS, the total cost on our highway system came to over 110 Billion.  But, aren’t we glad we have it now?

Unlike certain rotund right wing radio blowhards (yes, you Rush Limbaugh), I do want to see the president (any US president) and America win.  So, I’m rooting and hoping that Team Obama knows what they’re doing.

I just hope there’s something left over after the recovery package for future generations to remember it by.

Breaking News! Turns Out Economy Is Not Cyclical!! It’s Just Shaq-tastic!

18 Oct

When talking to my many Republican leaning friends and acquaintances over the years, I’ve often heard about all the good Ronald Reagan (may he rest in peace) did for the U.S. economy.  When I inevitably bring up Bill Clinton’s economic record to these same friends, I usually get dismissed very quickly.  It’s typically with something along the lines of “everyone knows the economy is cyclical.”  Then when further pressed, these same Reagan fans will go to statements like “the president has nothing to do with the economy”.

And that’s when they’re in my trap.

I usually bust out something like, “OK, so if the president has nothing to do with the economy than how can you give credit to Reagan for America’s boom in the ’80s?”.  Most of the time, there’s some hemming and hawing, but pretty quickly most Republicans throw Reagan under a bus and chose to defend the position that the economy is cyclical.  Among my Republican pals, this belief is more closely held than even the esteem in which President Reagan is held.

So, for a lot of people, “the economy is cyclical”.  Free markets are the key to everyone’s prosperity goes the thinking.  Suddenly though, a lot of these GOP types are re-thinking.  Re-thinking to the tune of billions and billions of dollars.

President Bush and his cronies as well as the Democrats in government are doing an awful lot to try to right the economic situation.  Are they doing the right things?  Darned if I know.  Like John McCain, the economy isn’t my bag, man.

That said, I think that for those people who believe the economy is simply cyclical this has to be a wake up call.  The reality is that our markets never were and will never be 100% free markets.  Government has a role to play.

It’s like a playoff game in the NBA or NHL or any sport.  You want the refs to let the guys play the game.  You don’t want the championship to be decided on some tippy tap lame as@ foul call.  On the flip side, you don’t want to let the game degenerate where someone like let’s say Shaq can just run over people at will with no risk of a foul being called.  That’s not fair either.

So, it’s a fine line for sports’ refs.  And it’s a finer line for the government.  The government should have a role in the free markets that we Americans hold dear.  The government, like an NBA ref, needs to make sure to let business do what businesses need to do in order to succeed.  But, like not letting Shaq steamroll his way to an NBA championship, the government needs to curb the excesses of the companies that choose to undermine the free markets America provides by cheating their way to success.

The government needs to be involved, which means the president needs to be involved.  It’s even better when he or she actually understands the issues related to the economy.  Ultimately, it does matter who’s president.

Americans have found that out the hard way recently.  Eight years of bad Bush policies along with plenty of blame to go around to the Democrats in Congress, have helped us get into this financial mess our nation is currently in.

Suddenly, President Bush has discovered that he matters when it comes to the economy and it’s not ALL just about cyclical turns in the almighty free markets.  He’s got a job to do and he seems to be trying to do his best at it.

I don’t know whether to be happy or scared…