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Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 ???

Can you believe another year has come and gone? Can it really be 2011? At dinner last night, the subject of Y2K came up. Can you believe it has been 10 years since that futile scare? Are you feeling optimistic or cautious about 2011? How would you describe your outlook for the New Year for yourself, your family, your community, our state, and our nation? These are tough questions and the answers will vary from one person to another.

In thinking about the New Year, I have to admit my thoughts were vague at best. I even went online and researched everything from the Chinese calendar (year of the Rabbit by the way) to the Farmer’s Almanac. My search also found a few prognosticators ranging from a religious group for such, a fairly thorough economic forecast from Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary for President Clinton and a Professor, and the usual postings from those known simply as bloggers.
Surprisingly, there were very few credible or authoritative search results offering bona fide forecasts / predictions. I say surprising because in the day of the media talking head and expert “panels”, one would think that we have more answers than we have questions. Those of us that live in the real world though know that the future is as unpredictable as an Oklahoma tornado.
I was intrigued by some of the predictions made by Professor Reich. “CEOs and stockholders will prosper in the globalizing economy, but the American labor force will continue to struggle, as America's two economies diverge further,” predicts Reich. Professor Reich describes two economies within the US Economy this way, “ the Big Money economy and the Average Working Family economy — will continue to diverge. Corporate profits will continue to rise, as will the stock market. But typical wages will go nowhere, joblessness will remain high, the ranks of the long-term unemployed will continue to rise, the housing recovery will remain stalled, and consumer confidence will sag.”
Zachary Roth blogging on THE LOOKOUT describes 2011 this way – “As we enter 2011, we're at an unusual economic moment. Everywhere you look, there are hopeful signs that the economy is finally turning around. But many Americans just aren't feeling it yet in their daily lives -- and might not be for a while. Today's news brings that contradiction home more strongly than ever.
Who really knows what 2011 will hold for any of us? We use the data available to us to make the best decisions possible producing the most desired outcomes. Professor Reich goes on to make the case that Wall Street will prosper at the expense of main street America because of the cold-hearted greed that international markets offer at the expense of the American citizen / consumer. Although I agree with the Professor’s prognostications, I do not agree with the reasoning behind his predictions.
I would argue that Multinational corporations and small businesses alike will invest and operate in any market that offers a good return on investment. Given the growth rates and wealth creation that is occurring in countries like China and India, it is only natural that those who can capitalize on these markets will.
And the reasons these same organizations are not investing at the same robust levels here in the US as they are internationally is simple economics. The same dollar invested in a minimally bureaucratic, low wage, low taxed economy yields a much higher return than a country like the US that has more bureaucracy, higher wages, and higher taxes. Last time I checked, the US had the highest corporate income tax in the world except for Japan.
So as the 112th US Congress convenes this week and state legislatures begin their sessions all across the country, the jury is still out as to what policies will be enacted, changed, or repealed that will affect our country’s ability to compete. Although many promises were made in the recent election cycle, it is now time to govern. The US and the state of Georgia have tremendous issues to debate and a responsibility to enact laws / policies that will increase our ability to compete.
Thankfully we are prepared locally to compete (at least against other US communities). Our local governments have low to average tax rates. Because of Grow Greater Dalton and our local governments, we have the necessary resources to market our community to those looking to expand or invest here for the first time. We are in a terrific location that manufacturers can reach over 50% of the US population within one day’s drive from Dalton. And we have tremendous transportation and utility infrastructure.
Although many are forecasting continued instability within the housing market, prolonged high unemployment, and flat to declining wage rates, most also agree we have turned the corner. So 2011 may not be as bad as 2008 or 2009, but it is too early to declare we are out of the storm.
As my blessings continue to be greater than my needs, I am thankful to be an American, a Georgian, and a proud member of the Greater Dalton community! From all of us at the Chamber of Commerce, we wish each of you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

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