Monday, 14 July 2014

Breezy Point Think Tank

            Economic forecasting is the perfect mix of art and science: you may blame either component if you don’t get it right! Not unlike horse racing you need to know the form and conditions, but you must also be able to sniff the wind, and be on speaking terms with lady luck.

            Some calls are beyond obvious: when shacks in Ireland were selling for a half million Euros it was apparent that one hell of a bubble was about to burst.

            Likewise back in 2007 when Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, stated that financial markets would self-regulate, it was time to head for the hills.

            The most glaring current red flag is the number of over-capitalized start-ups that still haven’t figured how to turn a profit. In other words, don’t bet Auntie Eileen’s jewelry on the next Facebook.

            So how is the American economy really doing? You’ll find an expert to confirm any opinion you might possibly hazard.  Me?  I stick to two bellwethers - one without cost, the other the price of a round of Coors Light.

            The freebie merely requires a walk up the East Side of Broadway (once known as the plebian “shilling side,”) from Canal to Houston. In the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Debacle you could walk in a straight line up that once congested commercial boulevard marveling at the sight of the empty flagstones ahead of you.  

Around 2010 shopaholics returned only to stare longingly in store windows. In the last year, however, I’m forced to swear like a trooper to clear the way while zigzagging around laden down shoppers dazed as two-bit junkies after a fix.

This leads me to believe that happy days are ahead for the economy unless the bankers and gangsters wreck the joint again.  

However, before certifying imminent boom times it would behoove one to journey out to Breezy Point on the Irish Riviera. My brother Jimmy holds court there in the Blarney Castle – a renowned economic think tank that doubles as a watering hole.

The assembled fellows of this vaunted institute have little time for the Economist or Wall Street Journal – they tend to be more News and Post aficionados. Yet it was on this sacred ground in 2007 the tragic news was revealed to me that hard times would soon be upon us.

            You see Jimmy is a waterproofer – one of that doughty band who keeps the buildings of this town from collapsing on our noggins; and when Mr. Trump and other real estate titans are not employing these gentlemen, then things are going to hell in the proverbial breadbasket. Union members, I was informed, had been told to expect the worst and, even more ominous, official applications for building maintenance and repairs were at an all time low.

            The current forecast from the Blarney is mixed. Things look good in the short term, the union is hiring - but there are grave concerns about future climatic conditions, and for good measure don’t hold your breath for a Mets or Jets renaissance. However, Jimmy and his assembled think tank brethren stand at the ready to deliver forecasts for a mere round of Coors Lights!

            Perhaps I can explain one puzzling statistic that is stumping the experts – the number of unemployed abandoning the workforce. Experts be damned! Do you know any regular person with enough stashed away to actually quit working?

What’s happening is that since most jobs being created are in the lower paid service and health care industries many unemployed have begun their own small businesses. These range all the way from financial consulting to grandparents becoming daycare givers and pocketing some of the money saved.

            Many people, however, are taking social security at 62 rather than waiting for full payment at 66. This will inevitably cause immense social and financial problems for the country down the line. But as they say out in Breezy, “What are you gonna do?”

            Oh well, it’s a nice day for a stroll up the Shilling Side of Broadway, or maybe I’ll head out to the Blarney, shell out for a round of Coors Lights and find out what’s really going on in this country.

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