Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama Dips His Toes into Iran, Is This the New Economic Normal?, Things That Annoy Me

President Obama Wades Carefully into Iran Situation
In his press conference today, President Obama declared that he was "appalled and outraged" at violence against protesters in Iran. It was the most direct statement made by the administration to date calling to task the powers that be in Iran. President Obama continued to stop short of directly criticizing the election process or result.

This appears to be par for course for President Obama, whose tendencies on both foreign and domestic issues to date has been to take a measured approach and slowly ramp up rhetoric in response to conditions. We had a glimpse of this in the campaign -- think back to the Jeremiah Wright controversy.

I doubt that his press conference today will appease conservatives who sought much more direct influence from the White House from the get-go. President Obama's measured approach is the polar opposite of former President Bush's. If you are a liberal, he is thoughtful, contemplative and intellectually geared. If you are a conservative, he is wishy-washy, indecisive and lacks courage. PoTAtoes, potTAHtoes.

It's Stopped Getting Worse, but Will it Get Better?
The gains in the stock market has stalled, unemployment is still at a record high and the World Bank just revised its global economic forecast down to a 2.9% contraction in the global economy this year.

It has many thinking -- you call this a recovery?

The problem the markets are experiencing right now is that while we no longer appear on the verge of a global economic meltdown, as we did to many in late Februrary and some of the economic statistics (home sales, retail sales, etc.) have stopped declining, all of the economic indicators have stabilized at a lower level.

It has led many to ask the question -- is this the new norm? Will we be living with 9-10% unemployment, zero growth and hard-to-get credit for generations to come?

I don't think so. The engine that drives long-term economic prospects is productivity growth - and productivity is still growing. The economy is performing under capacity right now -- too many people out of work, too many people working part time, too many people underemployed. But these are transitional, not structural issues. In fact, the history is that recessions often spawn productivity growth as businesses find creative ways to be more efficient out of survival instinct. We certainly saw this in the last 3 recessions. So, rest assured, things WILL get better again.

What may be fundamental changed is credit conditions. The S&P may take years to get back to 1,500 because corporations have realized the risk that massively debt-ridden balance sheets can cause (ask a few casino companies or maybe some banks.) Individuals are saving again because they realize that they can no longer rely on their home value and their 401K always going up. So thrift may be back in, at least for a while. But we grew the economy pretty well in the 1950s and people were relatively a lot more thrifty then. Innovation drives productivity, not spending.

Things That Annoy Me
A new feature -- suggested by my wife -- some short-takes on some things I find very annoying, in the political world and elsewhere. So, here it goes...things that annoy me:

(1) Glenn Beck. You can't like him unless you think Rush Limbaugh is too civil and liberal.
(2) Democrats who say they are feminists but defend David Letterman because the teenage girl he joked about isn't "on our team"
(3) Sarah Palin -- not over the Letterman controversy, but because she can't complete a sentence
(4) People who think that I care who won the U.S. Open
(5) People who call Sonia Sotomayor a racist. Oh, the poor opressed white guy. We just don't ever catch a break.
(6) Drivers who don't use turn signals
(7) Congressional Democrats, especially Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi -- for never being organized on anything, never being united on anything and never having any backbone on anything

And finally, my annoyance of the week:
(8) Righteous ex-smokers (yes, I'm talking to you, President Obama), who want to legislate that we do what they had a choice about doing.

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