Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Common Sensulus

Thomas Oliver is a relatively new business columnist at the AJC, which ironically is cutting its business coverage back. I haven't been reading his columns regularly, but stumbled across an archive today and several make a lot of sense.

1) His comparison of our various bailouts to the constant tinkering that took place during the Great Depression in this column is very valid. While some of Roosevelt's programs were valid, after a while the big problem was the uncertainty it created in the minds of business. If you never know where the government is going to "invest" -- some would say meddle -- next, you never know what your move is. Cousins Properties CEO Tom Bell provides a real world example with his comments. After hearing Dennis Beresford speak today, it is obvious government leaders are making things up as they go along. Professor Beresford has worked at Ernst & Young, taught at UGA, and saw the inside of the mess during his directorship with Fannie Mae, and his comment "I feel more depressed about the situation in this country than I have in my entire life" was startling. It would behoove the feds to stop -- soon -- and see if things are working.

2) I have said all along -- and told several friends and acquaintances at a board meeting tonight -- that the issue is actually relatively simple in pure economic terms: for more than 10 years, American consumers, business, and government have all been spending more than we have been earning. Phil Larkins nails it and quantifies it in this other column from Oliver. The "de-leveraging" process is going to be long and painful, but is very necessary. If we get back to our old ways (and government doesn't change its ways) we will merely build our house of cards even higher on a false foundation of debt. And the fall will be that much more painful.

3) The final piece in the trifecta is a thoughtful piece on the specfics of the stimulus. And he is right, not all spending has a stimulative effect. That is my biggest issue with our package that was signed today.

After the uncertainty of the fall, December and January were almost a welcome relief with no new programs a bit of a sense of normalcy. Maybe the Federal Government can let the dust settle for a while at this point and see what -- if anything -- is working.

1 comment:

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