Friday, August 19, 2011
The Shredded Safety Net
I was thinking about what could loosen the purse-strings and get people spending again. Now, I'm not an advocate of profligate spending at any time (my family will confirm that), so I wouldn't want people to falsely feel safe to overspend.
For some people, having a bonus in their pocket is enough stimulus to spend, but most of us take a longer view. We want to feel sure that we won't regret the expenditure, so we have to believe the money will keep coming in.
It's hard to do that now with the job market as lousy as it is. Being able to count on our jobs or the good chance of getting another job is the safety net for most people. Rather, it was the safety net. No other safety net is going to take the place of a robust job market. Even if we once counted on our home equity or credit lines, no one these days realistically believes they can live on their home equity, credit cards, or savings for very long.
With the job safety net so tenuous, most of us are going to try to bulk up our other safety systems--our savings and any other income streams -- and pare back our obligations so we can live on less if the dreaded event occurs and we lose that job.
The renewed focus on jobs by all political parties is welcome, but I'm not hopeful that we can stimulate job creation by supply-side methods (lowering taxes) or by government programs. Both methods will raise both the deficit and doubts about our future, which isn't good for our job climate. I eagerly await the job proposals by all serious national leaders.