U.S. Economy 2012: Jack Welch on What's Stifling Job Creation
Excessive government regulation and uncertainty over tax policies are what's restraining companies from hiring, former General Electric (NYSE: GE) CEO Jack Welch said on CNBC last Wednesday.
Welch joins a large number of economists and pollsters trying to sort out why the U.S. economy in 2012 hasn't rebounded more strongly from the 2008-2009 recession.
In particular, everyone is trying to figure out why job creation has been so sluggish.
The U.S. economy added just 69,000 jobs in May. That's far below the 150,000 or so needed just to keep pace with new workers joining the labor force.
"We should be poised to do well, but we are getting hammered by political forces who won't deal with the fiscal cliff coming up," said Welch, referring to the expiration of the President Bush-era tax cuts and sharp reductions in federal spending due to hit in January.
Welch blamed an array of government agencies for cooking up more and more nitpicking rules. Such rules have little or no benefit, but hamper business owners and suppress job creation.
"These are the things that are going on every day. They add up," Welch said. "That's why we're not taking off."
Welch compared the current recovery to the Reagan Administration recovery in the mid-1980s. That recovery, once it got going, accelerated rapidly.
"If you look at 2009, and you look at the recovery we launched, we were getting into a traditional recovery," Welch said. "We had 4%, 4.5% growth until we started getting into regulations."
Jack Welch Not Alone in U.S. Economy ViewThe blunt talk from Jack Welch echoes data from several recent surveys of businesses.
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Five with Fitz: What I See When I Look Over the Horizon
When you've been working the markets as long as I have, you learn that the biggest dangers are always found in a place just over the horizon.
It's why I spend my time hunting for stories, news items and opinions that in the old days were considered far "below the fold."
Invariably, what I am looking for is the stuff that everybody else has missed.
Because I believe that's where the real information is -- especially when it comes to uncovering profitable opportunities others don't yet see or understand.
It's the story behind the story that interests me. To find it, you need to go beyond the headline news.
In that spirit, here's my take on five things that I'm thinking about right now.
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What U.S. Consumer Spending Data Is Telling Us
The markets slid yesterday on news that U.S. consumer spending increased by 0.3% in March, while income rose 0.4% over the same time frame. This is the first time since December we've seen income rise faster than spending.
I can't say I am entirely surprised.
As prices for "must haves" like gasoline and food continue to rise, consumers are digging into their savings to cope. This is not small potatoes, given that the average family saved a mere $38 out of every $1,000 in take home pay last month, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
I can't help but have huge concerns about Team Bernanke's plan; no amount of stimulus is going to overcome the struggle most families are having - which is to boost savings and shed debt.
Here's the thing... if consumers can't save, then they can't buy. And if they can't buy, they can't build up the nation's wealth, which is predicated on consumer spending.
All three sets of figures in isolation really don't tell you much. But when taken together - spending, income, and GDP - they suggest our economy is too weak to put millions of Americans back to work, much less in jobs for which they are appropriately qualified.
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How Political Spin Skewed the U.S. Jobs Report
The stock market – closed Friday for a holiday – had a chance today (Monday) to react to the March employment report – and fell in morning trading.
Although job gains continued in March, they were about 90,000 short of what was expected. Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald joined Fox Business’ “Varney & Co.” program Monday morning to take a closer look at the U.S. jobs report.
Fitz-Gerald detailed why investors need to look beyond the unemployment rate drop at more telling numbers – data the White House would like you to ignore.
Watch this video of Fitz-Gerald with “Varney & Co.” host Stuart Varney to find out what you need to know about the U.S. jobs report, and how it could affect the markets and economic recovery.
Obama's Trade Enforcement Unit and the Looming Trade War with China
Paul Krugman is Dead Wrong: Debt Matters
Paul Krugman, the Princeton University economics professor, Nobel Prize winner, and regular New York Times op-ed contributor says, "Debt matters, but not that much."
Not only is he off the reservation on this one, but he's completely fallen off his high horse.
In the real world, debt actually matters a lot.
In a Houston Chronicle opinion piece last week, Krugman, riding his horse - whose name might as well be Liberal Conscience - trampled conservatives under the guise of an economics lesson that derided "deficit-worriers" for wrongly seeing "America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments."
According to Krugman, that's a bad analogy and "the way our politicians think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem's size."
Decide for yourself. Either debt matters a lot, or not that much...
The World According to Paul KrugmanProfessor Krugman calls all the conversation in Washington about debt and deficits a "misplaced focus" and says all of the economic experts "on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits."
He derides the fears that deficits will cause interest rates to soar by pointing out that they haven't moved.
What he doesn't say is that they haven't moved because they're not free to move.
The fact is that the U.S. Federal Reserve has corralled the free market in interest rates by knocking short-term rates to almost zero through successive open market operations and extraordinary quantitative easing measures.
Mr. Krugman mocks those waiting for rates to rise and notes that while they wait "rates have dropped to historical lows."
Maybe what he doesn't realize is that the Fed's actions themselves have been nothing short of historical.
The crux of Mr. Krugman's supposition that debt doesn't matter much is based on his bashing of the popular analogy comparing America's debt problems to those of a mortgaged homeowner.
All of which Krugman claims is "a really bad analogy in at least two ways."
He says, "First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don't - all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base."
"Second," he says, "an over-borrowed family owes the money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe ourselves."
He goes on to say that the debt from World War II was never repaid and didn't make postwar America poorer.
In fact, the Professor points out, "the debt didn't prevent the postwar generation from experiencing the biggest rise in incomes and living standards in our nation's history."
Krugman is Flat Out WrongFirst off, the homeowner analogy is excellent--not irrelevant.
Mr. Krugman is wrong when he says that homeowners have to pay back their debt. The truth is they don't have to.
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Why America Hates Congress
Everybody knows that screwing up a critical assignment at work will almost surely get you fired.
That is, unless you work as a member of the U.S. Congress.
After more than two months of bickering, the six Republicans and six Democrats on the "super committee" tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion debt reduction savings over the next decade have thrown in the towel.
They have no debt reduction plan.
Analysts agree that despite the urgency of addressing America's fiscal issues, both sides are more interested in scoring political points than solving problems.
Meanwhile, the federal debt continues to grow. It eclipsed $15 trillion last week.
With representatives pocketing salaries of $174,000 a year despite their failures, it's no wonder U.S. citizens are down on Congress. A recent New York Times/CBS poll showed Congressional approval sinking to just 9%.
Even some members of Congress admit it.
"The politicians care more about their parties and getting reelected than they do the very real problem," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, said Sunday on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program. "[The super committee] was Washington's answer to kicking the can down the road."
According to the law passed as part of the debt ceiling deal over the summer, failure of the super committee to come up with a debt reduction plan is supposed to result in $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, known as "sequestration."
Half of those cuts, $600 billion, are to come from defense spending, with the other half coming from such areas as education, the environment, transportation, housing assistance and veterans' healthcare.
But just because that's what the law says doesn't mean it will happen. Congress, don't forget, can undo any laws it creates. Ideological opposites Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA, among others, are already working on this.
It's just more evidence of a disingenuous Congress.
Pointing FingersInstead of developing a deficit reduction solution, lawmakers have tried to convince the American people that the super committee's failure is the other party's fault.
Democrats had called for a "balanced" approach of some higher taxes, mostly on the wealthy, and spending cuts. Republicans eschewed any increase in taxes, preferring instead to reach debt reduction goals entirely through spending cuts.
"The wealthiest of Americans, those who earn more than $1 million every year, have to share, too. And that line in the sand, we haven't seen any Republicans willing to cross yet," super committee co-chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, said on CNN's"State of the Union."
"I don't understand the economics that says that if we raise taxes on my employer, or my boss, somehow they're going to go out and hire my unemployed brother-in-law," Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX, another committee co-chair, countered on "Fox News Sunday."
Why so much rhetoric and no action?
The main reason is that the automatic cuts don't kick in until January 2013 - after the key 2012 elections. Both sides hope to pin the blame on the other side to secure election victories next November that will empower them to solve the debt problem their way.
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How the U.S. Housing Market Can Save the U.S. Economy
Everyone knows that the U.S. housing market caused the current economic funk.
But here's the irony: The American housing market - a principal actor and victim of a bubble that burst, causing the worst recession since the Great Depression - may now be in a position to save the U.S. economy.
In other words, if we fix the housing market, we stand an excellent chance of fixing the economy.
And my housing plan may be the dual fix we've been looking for .
Plan Generates Huge ResponseIn Money Morning exactly one week ago, I presented a plan to fix the broken U.S. housing market. And while I wanted feedback on the plan, I was stunned to receive hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and comments - underscoring just what an intensely emotional topic housing continues to be in this country.
Many people lauded my plan. But I was somewhat surprised at the number of people who trashed it. For those critics, the main issue was that they didn't feel the plan addressed the real root causes of the current housing crisis.
I got an earful about what the root problems are. Eventually, it struck me. It wasn't my plan that people didn't like, it was that I didn't explain how my housing plan would fix those root problems.
Those root problems are no small thing. They caused the housing crisis in the first place. They're keeping the housing market from recovering now. And they're a major drag on the U.S. recovery - and could end up as a proximate cause, or key catalyst, of the much-feared "double-dip recession."
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Gas Prices, Bad Weather Slam U.S. Economy; GDP Growth Slowed to 1.8%
The U.S. economy's struggling recovery hit another bump in the road in the first quarter, with brutal winter weather and rising gas prices combining to put the brakes on growth.
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowed to an annual rate of only 1.8%, compared with 3.1% in the last quarter of 2010. The GDP measures all the goods and services produced in the United States.
"The biggest factor was weather. It hurt consumption and construction," Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities, told Reuters. "Energy hurt consumption as well. Higher gasoline prices took a bigger bite out of people's budget."