Up front: January 2014
Maybe it’s because, as I write this, it’s only six days until Christmas or, more likely, I’m still basking in the afterglow of yesterday’s post- taper stock-market rally, which sent the Dow soaring nearly 300 points, but I’m feeling good about business next year — or this year, as it’ll likely be by the time you read this. That’s because I’ve come to the conclusion that, no matter how hard they try, politicians can no longer stop the economy from improving.
Oh, they’ve given it their best shot, the clowns in Congress who have done little of consequence except partially shut down the federal government, the Obama administration with its inept launch of the Affordable Care Act and the three-ring circus in Raleigh to repair all that’s purportedly “broken” in state government. To even imagine such scenarios as we’ve seen this last year, you’d have to be smoking something far stronger than what they’ve legalized in Colorado.
I’m no economist and needn’t be to know the 2007-09 recession was no normal downturn, the kind we’ve traditionally quickly bounced back from. The Great Recession was caused by a financial crisis, the worst one — in fact, the only one — this country has experienced since the Great Depression. It took a good decade and a bad world war to dig out from those depths. But there’s a lot of data out there that shows we’re poised to make real headway in the coming year. The economy is on the mend because — to trot out another cliché — time heals all wounds.
Now that’s not what politicians of any stripe would have you think. They take this personally, in the sense that if the economy picks up steam, it’s directly due to all the coal they’ve shoveled into the firebox. May it falter, though, it’s not their fault but the foibles of the misguided fools who adhere to the heresies of the opposition party. Either way, reality gets replaced by hyperbole. For an outstanding example, just Google Rucho, Obamacare and Nazis.
This is not to say that politics plays no role or, for that matter, just a minor part in shaping the economy. If that were the case, our magazine wasted many thousands of words this past year — and, as the issue you hold in your hands demonstrates, will continue doing so in the year ahead — investigating how the two are entwined. As Contributing Editor John Hood writes in his column this month, which begins on page 18, this fall’s midterm elections are shaping up as a referendum on two diverse ideas as to the role of government in economic development. It promises to be a brutal contest.
In the meantime, I’ll stay, at least for what’s left of 2013, in my unfamiliar guise as economic optimist. After all, if not the best, then at least better is yet to come.