“The truth about uncertainty,” write the editors of Bloomberg News, “is that it’s (mostly) untrue.”
When corporate executives are asked why they don’t spend more of their record profits by investing in their businesses and hiring workers, they offer this mantra: uncertainty, brought on by President Barack Obama.
. . .
Is the uncertainty plaint really just an excuse for inaction — and cover for lobbyists looking to build support for less regulation? Or is there substance to the anxiety? If so, what can be done about it?
. . .
Hiring is down because consumer demand remains low as households continue to deleverage. Employers are also using technology and other productivity enhancements to make do with fewer workers. And it’s worth repeating the obvious: Business investment hasn’t bounced back to pre-2007 levels because there’s still too much slack in the economy.
If you accept these explanations for the elevated jobless rate, as most economists do, it’s hard to see the connection to Obama’s economic policies or to blame him for uncertainty.
So who or what is to blame? Some of it stems from the European debt crisis, which is cutting into demand for American exports. At the same time, China’s growth is slowing down. And some of the blame rests with the banks. They are still restricting lending, in part out of fear loans won’t be repaid.
Much of the problem is self-inflicted by Congress. . . . [L]ast summer’s debt-ceiling fight almost derailed the recovery, and this year’s replay could be worse.
. . .
Those invoking the uncertainty principle fail to mention that inflation and interest rates are historically low. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has repeatedly pledged not to raise rates at least through late 2014 — a gold-plated certainty guarantee if we ever saw one.
The pledge may be showing up in an uncertainty index created by Steven J. Davis, a University of Chicago business professor, with two others. Using news searches, differences among economic forecasters and other tools, they have measured the level of uncertainty by month, back to 1985. Their research shows that monetary policy and taxes, not regulatory policy, are the biggest drivers of uncertainty.
The highest point, in August 2011, came when [the Republicans in] Congress [manufactured] the debt-ceiling debate and the U.S. lost its AAA credit rating. Since then, the index has declined steadily and is now at the August 2008 level, before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
. . . You can blame Obama for many things, but uncertainty isn’t one of them.
I don’t buy that “you can blame Obama for many things” — at least not fairly blame him. I think it was an easy way to give a little flourish to the last line of the piece, and that if one subjected most of those “many things,” whatever they are, to the same kind of balanced scrutiny they gave this “uncertainty” rap, one would find those charges to be equally basely, or largely so. But it’s good to have this one debunked. Hats off to Bloomberg for the analysis.
This one is columnist Jonathan Capehart’s “all-time favorite presidential photo” — the one where the President is leaning down to let a little black boy touch his hair. Jonathan concludes his commentary: “Obama gets a bum rap for not talking more openly about race. What his critics don’t get — and what the Souza photo perfectly illustrates — is that the president addresses so much about race without ever opening his mouth.”
This one, which comes thanks to Andy Towle via Rex Wockner, shows a dog (who spells no better than you might expect), holding a sign in his mouth that says: “I AM A DOG. I SUPPORT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. IT WOULD EFFECT ME AS MUCH AS IT EFFECTS YOU.”
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To the old money, the world is a conspiracy of thieves. To the new money, the world is a department store.~Lewis Lapham
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