"The Big Fix" (Opinion, Dec. 29) consists of articles by four economists who all endorse two questionable premises: The economy needs fixing and the president is responsible for its year-to-year fluctuation. Is this diversity of opinion? I think not.
The collective opinion of investors is the primary driver of the economy, not the president. If any single governmental institution has a lot of short-term influence on the economy, it is the Federal Reserve. As for the budget, it is more of a congressional responsibility.
It is remarkable that the authors remain pessimistic in the face of favorable numbers on growth. There is a remaining problem with unemployment, but this is normal. Employment usually lags behind other areas in a recovery. These economists should get a grip on reality. This is just another business cycle. Presidential magic did not get us out of the last recession, and it is not needed to make the sun rise tomorrow.
I found the solutions presented by the four economists to be a bit stale and lacking in creativity. None of the economists noted that the U.S. economy is the base for one of the most materially extravagant lifestyles ever to exist. Concern about a 3% or even a 2% growth rate for such an economic engine should not allow our political leaders to become deadlocked in debates about tax cuts and deficit spending.
One way President Bush might seek to shake up the economy is to propose legislation to implement a shorter standard workweek and further legislation that enhances the rights of part-time workers. This would free up the American workers from the daily grind and stimulate the economy by increasing spending associated with more leisure activities and unleashing entrepreneurial talent currently trapped by a tiresome work schedule. It could further improve the employment rate by sharing the aggregate work distribution among a greater number of workers.
The economists didn't explain why, in a country as wealthy as America, a 4% economic growth rate is necessarily better than a 2% economic growth rate. What improvements in quality of life will Americans achieve at a 4% growth rate that they could not achieve at a 2% growth rate?
Americans currently work longer hours than most European workers. Would tax cuts and deficit spending improve the quality of life enjoyed by the majority of American workers or simply make the numbers look better? A majority of American households have both parents working long hours out of the home. Should there be any concern about what this is doing to the family? Should this concern be integrated with the overall concern for the economy? I would hope so.
Thank God Christmas is over ... no more minute-by-minute news reports that we aren't buying enough presents to support the economy.