The results of my survey of economists will be published in mid September. It's going to take longer than I thought to swim through the data and pull out the good stuff. And I have been advised by smart people that this week is a bad one to compete for attention in the news.  I can tell you that I've seen the raw results and there will be surprises.

Let's do a little experiment here. I asked economists to rank issues by how important they are to the economy. I'm asking you the same thing now. In the comments, tell us what you think is the number one issue for the United States from an ECONOMIC perspective.

I'm guessing your answers will be all over the place, and that says a lot about the challenge of democracy. If you don't know which issue is most important to the economy, it's hard to know which candidate would do the best job.

In your view, what is the most important issue for the economy?
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-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
Legislative Branch has too much power relative to the Executive Branch.

This results in:

1. Too much federal spending.
2. Taxes too high.
3. Trade not free enough.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008
Trade - the freer, the better.
Aug 28, 2008
Definitely developing a comprehensive energy plan should be a top economic issue. This should be implemented asap! We lost momentum after Jimmy Carter's administration. A few suggestions:

- Improve mass transit
- Promote fuel efficient cars via tax breaks/credits
- Make renewable options affordable for homeowners (ie, subsidize solar panels, etc.)

Let's not blow it a second time. Time is running out.
Aug 28, 2008
Class inequalities
Mortgage crisis
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008
Nassim Nicholas Taleb in "The Black Swan" writes: So I reviewed what articles and working papers in economics I could find. They collectively show no convincing evidence that economists as a community have an ability to predict, and, if they have some ability, their predictions are at best just slightly better than random ones - not good enough to help with serious decisions.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008
Peak Oil is the number 1 concern economically: why?

1) As oil prices increase, renewable energy projects become more expensive- thus it is important to act now to stave off difficulty in the future

2) Price of Oil drives most Foreign policy, or at least the most heated foreign policy (we'd care more about Darfur if they had oil

3) The only reason we work with the Saudi's or have terrorists attacking us is that we peaked our own oil supply back in the 70's

4) Global warming would be corrected if Peak Oil were addressed with renewable energy. If it is not addressed, the environmental damage caused by falling back to Coal, wood, oil shale, etc. and heavy crude will dwarf the damage caused to date by carbon and other environmental issues

5) The poverty line is quickly adjusted by oil. For example: Minimum wage must be enough for people to drive to work and back and still live, otherwise, minimum wages must be adjusted.

6) Domestic infrastructure is completely built on cheap oil. Taking away the assumption that oil will be cheap affects all domestic decisions at home.

7) Deficit becomes more difficult to pay as oil prices increase, because the economy slows down and debts are harder to pay

There are a lot of painful issues to address, but with even the CEO of shell and Exxon stating that demand will outstrip supply (the definition of Peak oil) by 2015 the debate about "when" should be pretty closed. That gives us 4-8 years to prepare, after that $4.00 a gallon will look like $1.29 does right now.
Aug 28, 2008
Granted I've been watching Milton Friedman's Free To Choose lately (which is outstanding btw)
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2024617864923164175&ei=ydO2SMDeFKG-qgOM9pXFDA&q=milton friedman free to choose 1 of 10

But I'm guessing what they'll come up with as remedies for the economy are:

Reduce government spending
Reduce taxes
Control money supply to reduce inflation
Reduce dependence on foreign oil
Get free trade going (no tariffs or subsidies)

Most of these would strongly favor McCain. I could be overestimating the number of free market economists that think like Milton though.

Aug 28, 2008
Way out on a limb, but here goes. Reduce foreign aid a lot. Now, I'm all in favor of foreign aid and helping those less fortunate, but there are plenty of people right here in the US in desperate need. We have to prioritize. The US is collecting plenty of taxes. If we apply those taxes to solving our problems at home, soon we'll be in a much better position to help those in other countries. We'll have more people educated, employed, and healthy - all paying taxes. We'll be able to take care of people who are starving and living on the streets. many of whom belong in hospitals, not jobs (please put my last boss at the top of the list). We can send all our children to really good schools. All these educated, hard working, non-starving, well funded people will be able to contribute to solving big problems like global warming, HIV/AIDS, sustainable agriculture, etc. We might even be able to support some artists and creative thinkers who help lift human existence above animal existence. Of course, we'd also have to stop spending billions to rip other countries apart, so we're not obligated to rebuild them, but that's another topic.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008
Wow, lots of different responses, and most of them valid. I hope Obama and McCain are reading this...

I agree with those who say that jobs are the single most important economic issue. The US has been exporting thousands of good-paying middle class jobs overseas and not replacing them here. When a computer programmer loses his or her job to an Indian worker making 1/10 of the money, the ripple effect is devastating. Mortgages and car payments don't get paid, new clothes don't get purchased, there's no more going out to a nice restaurant for dinner, etc. We can't expect these people to support the economy if they are forced to take minimum wage jobs flipping burgers or mopping floors. There needs to be incentives for keeping jobs here, and disincentives for shipping work overseas.

Most of the other economic issues can be addressed through a strong job market. With more people earning decent wages, your tax revenue will increase. And people who have good jobs need less help from the government, so government expenditures could go down, (although congress always finds ways to spend more than they have...)

Education is directly related to the job market...we all agree that we need a good education system, but it has to be based on preparing students for what they will be doing in the 'real world'. Certain careers, like IT, seemed to be great at one time, but outsourcing has killed any interest on getting into that career path. I've been an IT professional for almost 30 years, and I would not recommend it as a career now to someone just starting out. So the big question for education professionals is 'What are we preparing our students for?'

The run up in energy costs has been a short-term event driven by a falling dollar and commodity speculators. That doesn't mean we will ever see really cheap gas again, but the price fluctuations are way out of line with actual supply and demand. Having said that, expensive oil will provide the slap in the face we need to develop alternative energy supplies. It's been 35 years since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, and we haven't done a thing about energy. We've had Democratic and Republican presidents since then, as well as Congress being controlled by each party at different times, but we are more dependent on foreign oil now than we were then. It will change when the price of alternative energy is competitive with oil. As oil gets more expensive, that time gets closer. Hopefully, the energy industry will create decent paying jobs in this country.
Aug 28, 2008
What ever happened to better/stronger/faster/CHEAPER? I was under the impression that as we advanced as a society, goods/materials were supposed to become less expensive?

Not sure where to start (I'm not an economist), but we lose jobs overseas because they can do it cheaper (high costs of health care, fuel, basic goods in this country) and many times better (education, motivation). We're dependent upon foreign oil because we haven't put any resources (education, government waste, motivation, corporate greed) into new technology.

From a global perspective we've spent too long pretending we're number 1 and the rest of the world should just play ball. That all is about to change very quickly, and if the US doesn't change tactics soon, we're going to be in the same market as the poor saps in the housing market that lost tons of money because they thought they were indestructible. Other than our military might and cash (which is losing it's value) we don't have a lot to offer.
Aug 28, 2008
we need to figure out how to help the less fortunate become self sustaining.
stop borrowing money to fund the budget. no money, no spending
Aug 28, 2008
National Debt
Social Security
Current economy

I’d expand on why but my time would be wasted, it’s like the moist robots that manage to get themselves elected have their wiring all screwed up and have never heard or understood concepts like the time value of money or delayed gratification or a host of other common sense train of thoughts.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008
I think energy is a pretty big issue today. Everything is dependent on oil somehow and with peak oil production being reached in many parts of the world we're going to need to find alternative sources for energy.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008

More specifically, many of the jobs that have been moved out of the United States. Mind you, I'm *not* against globalization of the economy.

Oh, and for all the folks who were in lock-step with Mr. Perot and "the great !$%*!$% sound", guess what? While a lot of jobs *have* gone South of the border, remember that a great many more did not. They went East and even more to the West. You can't blame NAFTA for all the jobs that have gone to Southeast Asia.

Like I said, though, I'm not opposed to globalization, but I think companies need to think a LOT harder before closing plants in the US and farming the work out to other (cheaper) countries. Remember the axiom "you usually get what you pay for"...

Conversely, the traditional "fat, lazy, American union worker" has to realize that if you DO want to keep your comfy job here in the US, there will be sacrifices that have to be made. You may have to give up the summer cottage or the boat or the jet skis or the Harley or the new truck...

But yes...JOBS. I believe it is from there that the rest of the economy flows...
Aug 28, 2008
Hmmm... an aging population could make things interesting in 25 years time, so it's time to be nice to your immigrant and migrant workers.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008
Free Trade and Increased Education are the Key factors
The USA got rich off intellectual property, Japan has done the same.

Taxes are a non issue, neither candidate are changing them dramatically, nor should they.

Decreasing National dept, lowering inflation, increasing GPD (growth rates), those are only Buzz Words not ACTIONS. The President cannot simply DO them, they are symptoms of strong economies.
Aug 28, 2008
A) Oil
B) Interest rate (= money supply)
C) Outsourcing jobs and manufacturing to foreign countries
D) Loss of manufacturing capability
E) Dismal medical care distribution
F) Inadequate retirement
G) Entrepreneurism, research and development, innovation.
Aug 28, 2008
1. Infrastructure -- our roads, transit systems, railroads, and electrical systems have been ignored by both administrations for far too long. There is no way to move to PHEVs without vastly improved electrical grid.

2. OIl -- as above, I think we should vastly improve the transit systems and encourage PHEVs to reduce/eliminate our dependence on oil (not just foreign-oil).

3. Efficiency -- California has shown that it is possible to achive vast improvements in energy efficiency with little or negative costs. To do this nationally will require either states individually or the country as a whole to review the way that energy is billed and paid for at the utility end.

Obviously, all of these are tied very closely together.
Aug 28, 2008

Banish Flash from this site!

It is no longer possible to read prior days' comics, because you can never click the '<' icon, because you have to hold your mouse cursor over one of your advertisements to stop it from opening up and covering the '<' icon!

The blog loads up in grey-on-black font!

Bring back a readable Dilbert!
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 28, 2008
In a word: Investability. The economy is all about producing stuff and consuming it. So to have an healty economy ("growth"), you need a willingness to produce stuff (investing). This goes hand in hand with having consumers (including b2b), cause producers are also consumers. The largest group of consumers are the public, so to make them richer is the one best thing for the economy, I think. Higher minimum wages, public work programmes, public health care and stuff like that. The US has very little international trade and the oil price is global, so that stuff doesn't mean much, I think. Anyway, my bet is that Obama is the best thing for the US economy.
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