So, one hell of an ugly year is coming to a close. As usual, this event cues panels of “leaders” in various fields to opine about the coming 365 days. What will become of Tom and Katie? Will Cher remove another rib? Will the Celtics top the NBA again?
These days the doings of celebrities and (forgive me, Celtics) national sports are no longer as relevant as the economy, however. Luckily America has myriad experts on this last issue, and we need only to look at current conditions, both in California and the country as a whole, to judge these specialists’ true qualifications– or rather, lack thereof.
No one should be surprised then that as newspapers and blogs roll out the obligatory predictions for ’09 articles, no consensus can be found. For instance, USA Today (that rag!) predicts a ray of sunshine:
“It may come as a surprise, given all the bad news of late, but the U.S. economy is expected to emerge from the recession sometime around mid-2009.” We’ll have some bad times, yes. “However, once the massive amount of fiscal stimulus currently being crafted by lawmakers and aggressive action by the Federal Reserve kicks in, the economy is expected to improve, according to several economists and business owners.”
Meanwhile, John Cassidy of Conde Nast’s “Portfolio” writes “Most economists predict a recovery late next year. Don’t bet on it.” He’s not the only one who predicts bad times ahead for housing, jobs, retail, and even the entire world economy. Every media outlet– from the San Francisco Chronicle to the BBC online to the cheapest weekly you find on the street corner– has predictions; some are rosier and some are darker. In short, no one knows.
Still, an interesting point that Cassidy makes deserves attention. He writes:
Among noneconomists, there is much more concern about what lies ahead. In October, a CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe another 1930s-style depression is very or somewhat likely. Dismissing feel-good suggestions that the turmoil on Wall Street won’t have much impact on the rest of the economy, 55 percent of the respondents said the financial crisis would affect them personally within the next year. A separate poll for Condé Nast Portfolio shows that people working in the finance business are even gloomier: 77 percent of them say their industry is in a state of crisis, and 50 percent say the economy is the worst it has been in their careers.
So who are we to believe: the experts who failed to predict the current crisis or the great American public?
Indeed, what do you predict, public? Time to go on record now. Clearly, we need some actual experts.
Zoltar photo via TheGreenHead (also a source of 2009 predictions!)