Explaining Southern California's economy

Let the battle begin: Stagflation or 'Stuckflation'?

This CNBC video features the musings of Barry James, who manages the James Golden Rainbow Fund, which "seeks to provide total return through a combination of growth and income and preservation of capital in declining markets." More to the point, Barry was asked to consider whether we're currently experiencing a replay of the 1970s, a decade that will be forever known for "Saturday Night Fever," the Bicentennial, punk rock...and stagflation, a scary economic phenomenon that combines low growth and high inflation.

We certainly have the low growth part right now, even though the third quarter 2011 data showed that U.S. GDP was 2.5 percent, much better than expected. The high inflation side, on the other hand, hasn't really materialized. Our current rate is 3.9 percent, just slightly above the historic average of 3.38 percent. And this is with the Federal Reserve pouring money into the economy.

Read More...

The grim jobs outlook for Southern California in 2012

Mercer 12966

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Unemployed father of two, Michael Lopez waits for work outside a temporary labor office in the Southern Californian town of El Centro, a town of 50,000 people where 30.4 percent of the work-age population are without employment, on October 28, 2010.

Yesterday, I blogged about the 2012 CSU Fullerton Economic Forecast and its fairly dire outlook for the national economy. Fullerton's economists also looked at the outlook for Orange County and the Southern California region. I'm going to focus on jobs, the biggest issue facing SoCal, where unemployment, at 12.1 percent, is well above the national average of 9.1 percent.

This is from the forecast:

Given the myriad of problems in the horizon both within the U.S. and globally, and prospect of little political will for forceful actions, the scenario of “muddling through” is expected not only at the national level but also at the local and regional levels. Our forecasts of payroll growth for Orange County are for a gain of only 7,300 jobs in 2011 and 16,300 jobs in 2012, or .5% and 1.2%, well below the historical average for the twenty years preceding the recession. Southern California region is expected to add only 20,000 jobs in 2011 and 95,000 jobs in 2012. As mentioned above, once the economy begins to establish an upward trend and gains momentum, jobs will be created mostly in areas of the region’s strength — construction, high-tech, business services, and leisure and hospitality. Over time we expect productivity to improve with a greater focus on exports.

Read More...

The Euro rescue plan: A rundown of opinions

People walk by a National Bank of Greece

LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

People walk by a National Bank of Greece in Athens on October 27, 2011. Greece reacted with measured relief on Thursday after European leaders sealed a deal to contain the eurozone debt crisis that slashes the country's huge debt by nearly a third. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

Has Europe finally solved its debt-crisis problem? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Yesterday, hot on the heels of the announcement that European financial leaders had labored into the wee hours to finally get their act together to rescue Greece and save the Euro, I heard an economist say she was pleased that Europe had finally agreed on a plan...to agree on a plan!

Yeah, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Europe's ability to right its listing ship of states.

Meanwhile, around the blogspshere, various voices weighed in. At Reuters, Felix Salmon took a deep dive into the matter of credit default swaps (CDS) on Greek debt (although it wasn't nearly as deep as some). You're not going to want to wade into this debate unless you're prepared to induce a pounding financial headache, but the topline summary is fairly simple.

Read More...

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:

Read More...

Why are politicians fixated on a 'simple' tax code?

Mercer 20709

kenteegardin/Flickr

Pictured: the advanced technology used to calculate the nation's taxes.

Herman Cain has his 999 plan. It's so much simpler than the excessively complex system we have now. Rick Perry just unveiled his 20-20 plan, which is also so much simpler than the excessively complex system we have now. And just today, I heard California Senator Dianne Feinstein support a recommendation, from Erksine Bowles and Alan Simpson's Deficit Commission, to reduce out current six tax brackets to three: 12, 20, and 27 percent (the top rate is now 35 percent).

Simplicity, it seems, sells. But why?

If anything, federal taxes are far easier to file than ever. I used TurboTax for the first time this year and, once I had gathered all my documents, the process consumed about an hour. In 1979, however, long before TurboTax came along, people managed to deal with 17 tax brackets, using a Bic ballpoint and calculator. In 1945, they confronted 24 brackets with nothing more than a No. 2 pencil, a pad of paper, a pack of Lucky Strikes, and stiff drink.

Read More...