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« Can You See the Light? | Main | Paralysis »
Monday
Nov032008

Hail to the (New) Chief

Tomorrow our country goes to the polls and brings to a close the longest and most costly presidential campaign in our history. It has been a test for not only the candidates, but also for the country at large. Millions of dollars have been spent, some would say wasted, as most of us made our choices months ago. We must still be the richest nation on the planet if we can so easily spend so much money on an election campaign. As usual, charges and counter charges have been made; some of them may have even been true; but all in all the whole process eventually had a rather tawdry feel about it.  It is unfortunate that our presidential selection process cannot be carried out with a bit more decorum and respect accompanying the process. But it is what it is and tomorrow we will find out who our next commander-in-chief will be.

Our next president will take office with an array of issues to face and with some good news and bad news in the mix. The bad news is that the country is mired in a deep recession. It is bad news because the unemployment rate is over 6% and likely to hit 8.5% sometime next year. The stock market has pretty well tanked over the past few months, and corporate profits are declining, and will continue to do so well into 2009. Home prices are still on the skid, and the credit crisis has some unraveling yet to do. It is hard to paint a pretty picture out of all of that, but it may be possible for our next president to do so. In fact, the recession may very well prove to be good news for the next president. It is likely that most of the bad news is beind us; the stock market seems to be bottoming. Most of the damage in the housing market has been done. This time time next year the economy will likely be looking up, so the new president will seem to have done well if he simply does nothing to make things worse. He will do well to remember the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take: First do no harm! The recession may work especially well for a President Obama (which now looks to be a sure thing) because it will give him a great deal of "wiggle room"with all of the campaign promises that he has made regarding new taxes and new spending programs. He can simply cite the rotten economy (and give credit to the Bush administration) as the reason to delay much of what he has promised during the campaign. And let's face it, much of what he has promised is simply not doable during a deep recession. I, along with many noted economist, will be very surprised if he even attempts to carry through with many of his capaign plans given the current economic reality.

I am especially interested in this election because I, along with thousands of my baby-boomer contemporaries, will likely retire during the next president's first term. The next president's policies will doubtless affect our retirement to some extent. There has been some talk of suddenly taxing IRAs in some new fashion;Mr. Obama has pledged to increase the capital gains tax rate; and there is talk of increasing the amount of income that is subject to the social security tax. Any of these moves will in some fashion affect those of us retiring in the next few years. But we need to remember that change is the norm as far as our country's fiscal policies are concerned, and although I might not agree with the various changes on the way, we will all learn to deal with them. Fiscal policy and tax rates have varied widely over the past century, and the population learned to live with them. This is not to say that certain policies cannot/will not harm the economy even more, it simply recognizes the inherent strength and ingenuity of the American people's ability to adapt. I expect we will adapt again.

Regardless who is elected tomorrow, the mood of the country will likely improve. People, like the stock market, don't like uncertainty. The uncertainty regarding our new president is about to be resolved. Likewise, with a new president we can all look forward to a new beginning. New beginnings offer hope. Hope is always good!

So assuming Mr. Obama is about to become President Obama, I wish you well, President Obama.  I wish you well for yourself, for me and my contemporaries who are planning our retirements, and I wish you well for our country's sake.  You will be in the prayers of many of your fellow Americans.  And unlike your pastor and mentor of some twenty years, the infamous Jeremiah Wright, most of us will pray that God will bless America during your term in office.  May God guide you.

 

Fly/Drive Safely

 

3 November, 2008

 

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