Pulse of the Economy

June 11, 2009

By Padmini Arhant

With a finger on the pulse of the economy, the recent reports on employment, housing, financial and stock market post stimulus funding worth $787 billion approved by Congress in February 2009, has drawn both praise and criticism from different quarters. The praise is always welcome and encouraging for any administration and the Obama administration is no exception to the rule, particularly when they are relentlessly engaged in stabilizing the economy as the top priority.

Whereas, the criticism aimed at the President is no revelation considering the partisan Washington atmosphere. The results thus far, indicate the current national unemployment rate at 9.2% against 8% in the pre-approval stimulus package forecast. Further, the reports reveal the economy shed 1.6 million jobs with the White House claiming 150,000 jobs saved since the passing of the stimulus measure. Obviously, it’s a contentious issue for all Americans receiving pink slips for paychecks and IOU’s in the state of California respectively.

The main criticism being the Obama administration’s optimistic approach in selling the stimulus plan not correlating with the job market results, a fair analysis is due to clarify doubts and speculations on the stimulus plan prospects and its effect on the economy.

According to the White House and other reports, only $44 billion i.e. 5.6% spent from the $787 billion stimulus funds with an accelerated investment committed this summer. In light of the above scenario, the 150,000 jobs rescued towards 5.6% funding is a confirmation of President Obama’s cautious and calculated expectation from the economy.

Even at the present conservative trend, the job market results for the remaining 94.4% of the stimulus fund upon targeted investment should adequately restore the employment rate from the growing underemployment and unemployment status with a combined saved and created job ratio yielding approximately 2,528,571jobs in a similar environment.

It is not uncommon for the critics and analysts to focus on the dismal job market figures affected since the onset of the economic recession in December 2007. The skeptics’ myopic view neglecting economic progress in other areas is attention worthy. Various reliable sources confirmed the financial sector strengthening with the bailout funds interjection in an effort to amortize the toxic assets from the sub-prime mortgage debacle. The leading financial institutions such as Bank of America, J P Morgan and Chase and other banks in the top ten range enabled capital management viability proven in the balance sheets.

The rapid foreclosures primarily responsible for the declining housing prices nationwide conversely contributing to the median home prices plateau with the 47 percent foreclosed homes resold in the entire Bay Area in April 2009 compared to 52 percent in February 2009 – indicating the desirous regress in foreclosures and signs of early recovery in the housing market.

The reports also confirm the home sales and value up for month and down for the year attributing to the Obama administration’s strategy of “the combination of lower prices, average mortgage rates of 5 percent or less for smaller loans, and a new $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time buyers” in the anemic housing market.

When the foreclosures pervasively diminished or extinguished nationwide with the stimulus programs, the housing market rebound will be visible motivating the lenders to participate in the melting liquidity market. However, caution required with the rising bond market’s pressure on interest rates imperative in alleviating the housing market crisis.

In the stock market – the significant gains by the commodity market and technology sector reflected in the recent rally is invigorating. Other industries lagging behind in performance likely to benefit from the steadily easing financial market credit crunch, promoting private sector investments directly related to boosting the job market, housing market and consumer spending essential for speedy economic recovery.

As for the quasi investment deals in the GM takeover causing pandemonium among the well-wishers across the aisle, the taxpayers’ financial commitment to rescue jobs slighted for political bickering. The ‘bankruptcy’ triggered cynicism about the government imprudence in investment goals with taxpayer dollars, while conveniently ignoring the fact that the auto industry problem originated during the former administration’s era and their $17 billion initial investment in the corporation set for failure.

Ironically, the temporary and modest government intervention in the free market characterized as ‘nationalization’ of industries necessitating required action from colossal mismanagement.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s objective in the GM deal to avert the deepening crisis in the frail industry challenged by the competitive global market is a thoughtful approach. Now with taxpayers as the majority shareholder in the once iconic corporation the management goals anticipated to synchronize with the twenty first century demands ensuring excellence in purpose, productivity and profitability.

Moving on to the other pertinent and popular health care issue debated and discussed to reject rather than embrace the premise of the President Obama’s health care plan – choice, affordability and quality, the perfect remedy to relieve the economy from the health care burden costing the nation in trillions while leaving the uninsured in millions.

Despite the innuendoes and insinuations about the mounting debt, the investments miscategorized as ‘squandering’ in the national economy ranging from health care, education, energy, environment, housing to financial sector and other industries is a pledge towards substantial economic security for the present and future generation.

The controversy surrounding the diverse investments costs applied to two particular sources viz. borrowing from China and tax hikes on the corporations and wealthy groups. Contrarily, the tax breaks to the top ten percent in the highest income bracket and corporations evading tax through tax havens with limited free market regulation or deregulation in the past eight years aside from being counterproductive resulted in approximately $9.5trillion dollars national debt with a cumulative effect on the status quo of the economy.

There was no clamor over the increasing liabilities on the baby boomers and the younger generation in the extravagant spending on illegal wars with a guarantee to fund itself from oil revenues in Iraq…an unequivocal myth until date.

Then the financial sector bailout with respect to AIG and oligarchs to a tune of $700 billion and more in 2008 with no accountability or transparency exacerbated the liquidity crisis against the intended proposal. Interestingly, the past events currently dismissed as irrelevant claiming that Obama administration disavow the incidents pertaining to the prior administration yet owe an explanation for the phenomenal deficit, the previous administration’s legacy to its successor.

Only if the opposition’s present vigilance on fiscal responsibility existed from 2000-2008, perhaps the People’s Republic of China and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be vigorous competitors to the world financier ‘The United States.’

The demands from the conservative right exceedingly high launched with rhetorical comments and negative attacks such as “false Prophet’s failed Presidency.”

In the absence of any ideas and solutions to the burgeoning crises created by the previous administration’s historical blunders serving testimony to the beacon of incompetence and failures in Presidential history, the political posturing is paradoxical.

With respect to the economy in the ‘Golden State of California’, the clock is ticking for the state and the local government authorities to resolve the budget crisis and close the $24 billion deficit in the state budget and $73 million in the San Jose City budget.

Even though the strategy in both situations is scrambling to wipe the deficit by any means with mostly eliminating the vital services and benefits to the weak, the poor and the vulnerable, the repercussions of draconian cuts with no tax increases will far outweigh the immediate illusory results not barring the political risks in the 2010 gubernatorial elections.

Following the special election results on May 19, 2009, it’s incumbent on the state legislature to adopt several guidelines and viable options provided by concerned citizens through many sources in resolving the fiscal crisis. There is no patent right on the thoughts in the matter affecting the entire state and the community at large. It is a patriotic and civic duty of every citizen volunteering suggestions to deal with the stalemate confronting the California state legislature.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent comments on undocumented workers and their plight aptly placed the sensitive immigration issue in perspective. It’s time for the Governor to translate into action by issuing drivers license to the undocumented workers in the State of California that would not only aid the budget but also enhance the opportunity as the preliminary step towards legalization of the Californian residents.

More often, the leadership is subject to test the will, wisdom and courage against the odds exclusively the unpopular decision eventually ending in greater good for all.

I wish Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Chuck Reed of San Jose ‘Good Luck’ in their decisions appropriate to defend many but might offend few in the process.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant