About that double dip

With the new year, the uncertainty that dogged the economy appeared to be easing. Washington agreed to maintain current tax rates and even enact more business incentives. New governors assumed leadership and (before challenging collective bargaining) began cutting tax rates. For a three-month period, jobs were being created at a more robust pace, and there was hope of even greater job-creating velocity. Yet all it took for double dip recession talk to re-emerge was one bad month of economic data. One month is a blip, not a trend, but some appear to be openly rooting for more misery.

If there is any justice, those would be the first people to lose their jobs in a double dip. That said, let me be the first to pose the question: are things REALLY that bad?

Those of us who have been sounding the debt siren should be happy about the fact that the message appears to be getting through to Washington. Although talks reached a snag over taxes, both sides are at least at the table trying to negotiate a deal that would cut the deficit in exchange for raising the debt limit. Even the American Association of Retired Persons now acknowledges that cuts will be needed to save Social Security. Actually, means testing would be a less painful place to start for both Social Security and Medicare, and curbing Medicare fraud, which the government is getting more serious about, also would put the program on stronger financial footing.

America might still avoid the fate of Greece, whose debt crisis has the European Union contemplating more draconian fixes that we can avoid by acting now.

Since presidential elections now begin far too early, we're already being told that the anemic jobs recovery is the worst since the Great Depression. An exaggeration? Of course. That's why political campaigns are called the silly season, but overstating the case plays into a negative economic psychology. That might help the candidates, but it isn't doing anything for job seekers.

Rather than become the purveyors of doom, why not put things into perspective. The economy is growing, but not nearly fast enough. Jobs are being created, but at a frustratingly slow pace. It would be instructive for Republicans to explain how the President's policies are inhibiting faster growth and what they plan to do about it, but that's a lot harder than scaring the pants off us.

That said, there are reasons for businesses to be concerned about the Obama administration's approach. They start with Dodd-Frank, some pieces of ObamaCare, and quantitative easing, but don't overlook the National Labor Relations Board's complaint against Boeing, which opened a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. Instead of welcoming lower-cost jobs that will keep Boeing globally competitive, the union-dominated NLRB is apparently making an example of the aerospace giant. It's time for the President to weigh in because his labor appointees are blocking an American company's domestic expansion, albeit from a union state (Washington) to a right-to-work state. I'd rather have those jobs go to a right-to-work state in the U.S. than to a foreign country. Right-to-work does not preclude the forming of unions; it simply gives workers the right to choose.

Which brings me to my next point: There is a belief that some business executives are simply waiting Obama out, thinking that if they hold back on job creation, the American people will get rid of him. I don't think that mentality is dominant in Greater Madison and Wisconsin, where the economic outlook is brighter than it is nationally, but executives who take that approach run the risk of being outperformed by competitors who attack opportunities.

Given that everyone's job is potentially at stake, I wonder whatever happened to the stubborn refusal to participate in a recession, let alone talk ourselves into one?

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