“After you, Alphonse,” says Gaston. “No, Gaston, after you,” is the reply. And with neither willing to proceed before the other, both are stymied. Nothing gets done.
In February 2009 President Obama and Congress enacted the almost $1 billion American Recovery & Reinvestment Act to stimulate our economy. Governor Corzine and the legislature also enacted stimulus measures, including a package of four bills in December 2008. These were smart measures but insufficient for the Great Recession.
Today we see continuing high unemployment, disastrously low home sales, a declining stock market, and the threat of a double-dip recession. In a speech yesterday Mr. Obama says his economic team will identify additional measures, but his administration is stymied by congress (particularly the Senate) which lacks enthusiasm for further stimulus. Our own legislature passed a homebuyers tax rebate program but was stymied by Governor Christie. Even the Fed is running out of tools to stimulate growth.
Consumers, concerned about their own job and fearing the economy, have increased their savings rate to 6% (it used to be about 0% four years ago) and are not consuming. Businesses, with similar concerns about the economy and with a lack of increased demand from consumers, are not investing or unable to get bank loans. Hence Messieurs Alphonse and Gaston. Both are waiting for an improved economy.
Given the upcoming midterm elections and the Republican mantra of “Just Say No,” help from Washington, except for a possible SBA loan program, seems unlikely. Christie displays no interest in growing jobs (he is too busy cutting them) or in stimulating the economy (he is too busy with his narrow focus on the rich.) “Winston Smith” refers to this as “authoritarian kick down and kiss up.”
So we are left with our NJ legislators to create solutions. For small businesses that want to grow but can not get bank loans a SBA type program would help. Stimulus targeted toward improving our infrastructure creates jobs more quickly and benefits our future. Expanding funding for job training and education helps employees and businesses and strengthens our competitiveness. Investing in new technology firms has a similar impact. Even offering smart tax exemptions to new businesses can have benefits that exceed their cost.
Either our economy continues indefinitely in the doldrums, or somehow we have to get both Alphonse and Gaston through the door. Central Jersey Assembly Members Linda R. Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) and Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) are about to unveil their seven-bill Business Expansion and Jobs Plan aimed at helping small businesses weather the current economic climate. Lets hope that they and other legislators come up with innovative solutions. We can’t count on our self-serving governor to help, but as time goes on maybe even he will realize “It’s about the economy, stupid.”