Monday, January 21, 2008

Brace For A Possible Bumpy Ride!

No stellar promises and expectations ushered in 2008. It just came. With a dull thud, that now promises to escalate to a resounding boom that will not augur well for the entire country. I may not have noticed much because I was too busy warding off our own little calamitous familial situation.

But there appears to be no uplifting exultation to report about US politics and the overall economy. The entire din created by both politicians and media have only contributed to the cacophony of sounds and fury that could only result in confusion in and mixed messages among the general populace. This definitely signals the kind of unwanted onslaught we will all be harangued with until the presidential elections in November 2008. So brace yourself for a possible bumpy ride.

And the economy? Earlier, we wrote about the general housing slump which shows no discernible signs of any abatement or improvement. Signs point to its getting worst before it gets better. And which cellar does worst reside? Who knows, but hope springs eternal.

The start of the year also did not presage well for Wall Street, with stocks staggering to the finish line. And now they continue to grope around the dark, dragged by a couple of dire economic indicators.

The unemployment figure shook a bit and ended at a higher 5%, one of many foreboding signs to suggest an oncoming recession.

The dollar continues to belittle itself in the international arena, continuing its downward slip vis-à-vis such worthy equivalent as the euro, and an unlikely partner in a duo, the Philippine peso which has been surprisingly soaring for so many months.

While the watchful economists and vigilant government bureaucrats are on top of all these early signs, divisive and contentious disagreements continue to muddy the waters. Semantic discussions as to distinction between a diminishing GDP growth vs. a diminished GDP growth enter in to add uneasiness. Many micromanagers are refusing to accept traditional criteria on determining what a recession is. Is it when two successive quarters show negative growth or what? Others have more refined ways of determining recession.

But everybody is talking about the forthcoming stimulus package emanating from the WH and to be discussed and decided in detail by the legislative body. But again sides have been drawn creating a formidable wall between them. Even the statements of the Fed chief with regard to the issue get interpreted in different ways. Does he or does not favor it? But all agree that that eventual package better be a fast and straight shooter, because the looming recession waits for no one.

And to make the situation dicier, we read how the rest of the world, though not gloating at seeing the vulnerabilities of this vaunted behemoth, are at best quite nonchalant about the distressful stirrings in the US economy. Which makes for a sad and unexplainable commentary given that if the US suffers, the rest of the world gets dragged in the morass, too.

What about the public confidence in the economy? With many politicians and detractors of the current administration fomenting the gospel of economic doomsday and quite vocal about it, it is a wonder that the entire electorate has not latched on to that ominous message. Though many of your typical "man on the street" types have easily been bent toward that direction, believing in the worst for the country. Do these particular politicians and vociferous detractors honestly believe in their gloomy doctrinal views on the economy? One is slightly favored to believe that these are all propagated for coarse political ends. Because in spite of the many challenges, many figures, statistics, and indicators of the economy collectively find it still quite healthy and vibrant, especially comparatively speaking taking the rest of the world as a measure.

One could bet safety that the illegal immigration with its many negative ramifications contributes to the current malady, jointly with concerns about the seemingly illogical escalation of the prices of oil. And the budget deficits, though tamed somewhat but still necessitated by continuing gargantuan expenditures on security, the wars, and what have you, can be reasonably added in the unlikely mix.

Oh, so many factors to blame, but none to suit all purposes of all contending parties. Thus, the problems tied with illegal immigration as a contributor, definitely not in the minds first of the illegals and definitely in those posturing for open borders, or even those employers who blatantly encourage illegal immigration by continuing to hire them for less than market wages.

But still so many contributory factors to blame but no magical package to fit our collective size.

Solution? Resolution?

No doubt it will come. We can say that we have gone through all this, and worse. And maybe though expecting to come out scathed, still none the worse for renewed rebirth.

So let’s brace for a possible bumpy ride, and let’s get our collective noses to the grind to tackle these pesky challenges. Remember after this, there are still a few wild horses to tame – social security and public debt which cumulates with increases in budget deficits. And while in this inspired mode, let’s plan heuristic strategies for doing something about current account deficits, too.

Whew! There is no rest for the evil, err, working man.

Graphics: Refrigerator magnets, anyone?