Explaining Southern California's economy

Cal State Fullerton economists ask, 'Where's my boom?'

CSU-Fullerton-Forecast-MDB

Matthew DeBord

The 17th Annual California State Fullerton Economic Forecast did not paint a pretty picture of the national of state economy for the next few years.

Economists Anil Puri and Mira Farka took the stage at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine this afternoon to deliver the 17th annual California State Fullerton Economic Forecast. At this point, given the state of the economy, no one expected the outlook to be good. The news that U.S. GDP growth picked up somewhat in the third quarter, to 2.5 percent, took some of the edge off. The theme of last year's presentation was "Recovery," so it made sense that the question asked this time around was "Where's my boom?"

Yeah, about that boom...

Much like the UCLA Anderson forecast, released in September, the Fullerton forecast — which provides a comprehensive picture of the national and Southern California regional economy — tackled the sluggish nature of the recovery from the 2008 Financial Crisis and subsequent Great Recession. What are economists at UCLA and Fullerton worried about? Well, not about finding a boom. More like avoiding a stall:

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Econ 474: Say hello to 'stuckflation'

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Americans hold up 'I want to work' placards as they join a protest of several thousand people demanding jobs outside City Hall in Los Angeles on August 13, 2010. A Labor Department report showed 131,000 jobs were lost in July and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.5 percent.

Here's what we know: unemployment nationally is stuck at 9.1 percent; job "creation" is stuck at less than 100,000 per month; applications for unemployment benefits are stuck above 400,000 per month; and GDP growth is stuck below 3 percent.

And that's just four "stucks." Add in numerous other datapoints and you get a Big Stuck — the story of the American economy.

It's far worse in California, where we're stuck on everything that the nation is stuck on, but because of our thousands of unemployed construction workers have an jobless rate of 12 percent.

There are exactly two sets of ideas about how we can get out of this quagmire. On the right, the argument is to cut taxes, reduce government spending, and eliminate regulations that encumber business activity. On the left, the argument is to raise taxes on the wealthy while cutting them for the poor and middle-class, spend more on economic stimulus, and more rigorously regulate high-risk financial and business activity. 

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Live-econoblogging the Republican debate in California

ANOTHER UPDATE: President Obama has pitched his jobs plan to Congress and the public and I've got a quick reaction. Some intriguing ambiguity about whether we'll get an infrastructure bank, a subject I've blogged about. An I-Bank would have some definite benefits for Southern California, where the infrastucture is a-crumbling and there are thousands of unemployed construction workers.

UPDATE: As promised, I took a closer look at Perry's argument that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme, and here's why.

And so it ends. On the economy, the frontrunners — Mitt Romney and Rick Perry — promoted their own jobs records and attacked each other. On balance, Romney provided a more focused message on the country's future global competitiveness, which makes sense given his experience with Big Finance. This should resonate with Southern California, given the region's exposure to international trade. Perry stuck to his guns on Social Security and his insistence that it's a Ponzi scheme (which it isn't). This was a risky move, but one that should please his base. However, it also created a distraction from Topic A, which for many Americans is unemployment. "A monstrous lie to our kids" Perry called it, while if what he really wanted to do was talk about reforms to entitlement spending, he could have avoided this radical argument (although he's been on the record with this one for a while). 

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