'A new era of frugality'

Projections of economic future cry out for revival of U.S. productivity

Charting your life by federal fiscal projections is like trying to forecast the weather with a photograph of the horizon.

Markets change. Interest rates fluctuate. Political moves are constantly altering the
future.

But even a photograph of the skyline gives a big picture.

The latest Congressional Budget Office numbers paint a dim hue of the immediate
future.

Unemployment is expected to rise again to near 9 percent by the end of the year, and to 9.2 percent by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, our gross domestic product – the value of all goods and services produced in a year – is expected to be a sluggish 2 percent in 2012 and an absolutely melancholy 1.1 percent in 2013.

In short, we’ll be brushing perilously up against recession for some time to come – at the apparent mercy, or lack of it, of world markets, particularly Europe.

Historically, growth has hovered around 3 percent. Compare that to 2013’s projected 1.1 percent.

And while these are only projections, projections are all we have. They are what businesses and government must consider when planning their respective financial futures. And to some extent, families will have to, as well.

“The U.S. financial crisis and recession have produced lasting shifts in consumer spending and savings reminiscent of the 1950s that may crimp profits and productivity,” a Bloomberg article sagely predicted in May 2009.

“This is going to be a new era of frugality,” an economist told the news agency back then. “This isn’t some flashy two- or three-quarter deal. This is a secular change in household attitudes.”

Ominously, Bloomberg noted at the time, “The last time U.S. gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of under 2 percent over a decade was the 1930s, when it expanded at an average 1.3 percent.”

We may match that record if we’re not careful, due to government overspending, weakness in the world economy, trade and manufacturing policies that punish American productivity, and this administration’s return to historically disastrous Keynesian economics that worship at the altar of deficit spending.

Many believe that approach actually exacerbated and elongated the Great Depression.

Clearly, we need a change in approach. We also desperately need manufacturing and trade laws that will revive American productivity, including lower taxes, smarter regulations and fairer trade rules.

As for the CBO projections, we must also make the same prayer to the spirits that Ebenezer Scrooge once did:

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead. But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

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And the award begrudgingly goes to …

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:13

Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon