Monday, February 02, 2009

Consumers Are Rational So Obama Should Leave Them Alone

Consumers are saving more and spending less. That is good. They have been spending way beyond their means for the last 30 years and now is the time to work off the bad habits, save and then resume a 'normal' rate of consumption.

That means demand is going to fall to natural levels. Which will lead to deflation and more rational consumption choices. If we have a decade of low consumption we will gain a decade of savings. That means those that save will need less social security and help from the government.

“Consumers are rational,” said Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR. “They respond to incentives and conditions, and right now the conditions and incentives are: spend as little as you can, and pay down as much as you can. You hunker down. That’s what the consumer’s doing.” -NYT

“We have to expect spending to keep falling for some months yet,” Ian C. Shepherdson, chief United States economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients. “The concomitant rise in the saving rate, now at 3.6 percent compared to 0.8 percent in August, is good news in the long run but the key source of pain right now.” - NYT

Team Obama is trying to stimulate the economy by getting consumers to spend. The Fed is pushing down interest rates to zero, tyring to force consumers to move their money to higher yielding asset classes which contain more risk.

Obama should focus on long term INVESTMENTS that will retrain current workers and provide the incentives to the private market to invest. That means providing higher investment tax credits that will shield cashflows, increasing the internal rate of returns on those projects. The tax credit basically says that the government won't tax those cashflows for investors that take calculated risks.

At the same time Obama should cut tax rates on small and medium size businesses to lower their costs and reduce the risk of future cash flows. 60% of the workforce is employed by small and medium sized businesses. One proposal is the cut the payroll taxes so that employers will have more cash to shore up their balance sheet and lower the cost to hire workers. It will incent businesses to hire that additional work or keep workers instead of laying them off.

Unfortuantely team Obama is following the text book response to a atypical down turn. Let him fall on his own sword.

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