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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Aug 27, 2008
It's this country's astronomical debt. It needs to start getting fixed now or we're good and screwed. See the new film I.O.U.S.A. for more.
Aug 27, 2008
Today this monkey will dance. My knee jerk reactions were pretty much what the rest of the posters said- Credit, housing, the deficit.

Then I started to thihk. And the lack of personal savings came to mind. Apparently not a lot of americans have "rainy day" money. That's a problem with potentially dire consequences.

Then I started to think some more. Could it be healthcare? Social Security? The trade deficit? The exporting (sale) of US companies to non-US companies?

No, they're just too obvious.

What about China's holdings of US dollars? If they dump their dollars we're in deep. So maybe.

But my guess is that whatever the issue, it's something that's getting very little attention, if any. The doom and gloom stories sell papers but I'd bet whatever the real issue is, it's not very sexy.

I look forward to finding out in September. It likey won't change my vote, afterall, it's pretty much predestined.
Aug 27, 2008
Frapazoid has it right. The answer is Energy. It's the lifeblood of our economy and every other economy. When energy prices go up it has a viral effect on the economy. Nothing goes unaffected; the entire producer/consumer chain, from beginning to end, takes a hit.

We must find cheaper, cleaner energy sources and free ourselves from dependencies on foreign oil. The sooner we make that happen, then better off we'll be.
Aug 27, 2008
Three things: a) insulate the value of our money from the predilections of politicians; b) get entitlements under control; and c) don't make wars. I realize that this sounds a lot simpler than it is...Frank P.
Aug 27, 2008
Scott, you should read Bryan Caplan's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Rational-Voter-Democracies-Policies/dp/0691138737/ref=ed_oe_p/103-8810980-3222217">The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies</a>. He discusses in depth a study that formally establishes what you're trying to demonstrate here.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2008
From an economic standpoint, the most important issue is NATIONAL DEBT. If you solve this problem well enough to produce a large enough surplus, every other economic problem is also solved. Think about it: energy, poverty, inflation, high taxes, etc., etc. All gone tomorrow.

There is a stupid simple solution to the national debt. Tie Congressional salaries to a balanced budget. If Congress cannot produce a balanced budget, the congress critters don't get paid, simple as that.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2008
The two biggest items:
1) Value of the dollar, both in terms of foreign currency and exchange and inflation.
2) Energy
Aug 27, 2008
Healthcare. The one thing that wont be a problem is social security as we'll all be dead before we can claim our retirement.

-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2008
Hi Scott,

If we are choosing just one issue I say Social Security reform. This includes containing Medicare and Medicaid costs, which are the major costs of Social Security reform. For everyone listing the national debt as the key issue, that is an incomplete answer. The biggest contributor to long term debt will be Medicare and Medicaid costs, fix that system, control costs and figure out how to pay for such services, and your debt crisis disappears.

Aug 27, 2008
The most important issue for the economy is TRADE.

We can view trade through lenses -- barriers and subsidies.

Does the candidate support NATO?
Does the candidate believe that nations should specialize at what they do best?
Does the candidate believe in economies of scale?
Does the candidate believe in tariffs?
Does the candidate support antidumping laws?

Does the candidate support agricultural subsidies?
Does the candidate believe in promoting certain kinds of trade?
Does the candidate believe in government price support?
Does the candidate believe that the government should provide financial loans?
Does the candidate believe in the free market? Or government intervention?

In this election, the Obama/Biden ticket strongly skews towards an "Interventionist" model by supporting trade barriers and trade subsidies. McCain is a "Free Trader" and believes that nations and companies should compete on merit rather than legal and financial protection.

I believe that the survey of economists will identify this as the most important issue.

I believe that they will side with the views of John McCain.
Aug 27, 2008
Our economy is built on CHEAP ENERGY. Oil is a large part, but the rising price of coal and natural gas is a serious drag too since not everything runs on an internal combustion engine. Everyone screams "renewable, renewable, renewable" screw renewable, how about CHEAP!? If not, we'll be able to run our third world economy on two windmills and all the tree-huggers will be happy in their dirt and straw huts eating yellow mud cakes.
Aug 27, 2008
ILLEGAL immigration - The costs to our infrastructure FAR outweigh the "benefits" of cheap labor. I know, I know "they're doing the jobs Americans won't do" but I guarantee that if your choice is "Work for a poultry plant and survive" vs. "Don't work and starve to death" your @$$ would be first in line to wring that chicken's neck.

We support too many people in this country that are perfectly ABLE, but all too UNWILLING to work and earn their keep. I was out of work for two months because I was looking for the "perfect" job, but if push came to shove, I would have taken ANY job to keep myself from losing my house or going hungry.
Aug 27, 2008
I think the #1 issue for the economy is trust.

The big banks repackaged enough shady home loans that they no longer trust one another.

It's there own fault because they got stupid. Now there just holding pat, trying to figure out when they will be able to understand and believe all the securities they have generated.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2008
Energy, by far. Everything flows from the energy you can produce. If you can solve the energy issue while not exacerbating or even improving the national security issues (reliance on foreign sources, pollution/climate change), you're enormously far ahead.
Aug 27, 2008
The number one economic issue is maximizing my wealth and, in a few years, my retirement income. I'm sure others have similar goals. If the government can refrain from tampering, we'll all balance each other off and produce an optimal result.

More altruistically, the upcoming flood retiring baby-boomers will stress the economy greatly. We need to encourage them to emigrate to countries where the cost of living is lower. As a boomer, since this is my idea, I want first pick of where.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2008
National Debt

Belief that a "service economy" as opposed to manufacturing is all that is needed.

Aging of America - we have a lot of people expecting Social Security checks and they aren't going to be there.
Aug 27, 2008
Energy & Stability.

Absolutely everything we do depends on energy. I'm including electricity and gas burned on-site here.

Secondly, sharp changes always upset everything even if it's for the better in the end.
Aug 27, 2008
Tort reform.
While things like budget deficits and high oil prices all have potentially detrimental impacts over the long term, the drag on the economy caused by an overactive legal system is probably more substantial, and is growing. Given a freer hand to do business, with less drag from frivolous lawsuits, Americans can solve all of the other problems.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 27, 2008
The biggest issue is by far people living beyond their means. Fiscal irresponsibility is directly related to the housing market crash and the credit crunch. The American dream is blinding people to the fact that they can't always afford it all. It's so easy to blame the government, but part of the reason for the national debt is bail outs. Yes, the war had been expensive but nobody complained when they got their stimulus check, or when the government stepped into to help them keep their houses.
Aug 27, 2008
By far the most important Economic issue (and the least discussed) is consumer debt - the second is national debt.

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