Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't let anyone tell you the economy is improving

This is the big lie circulating these days, mainly, I suppose, because the media have tired of reporting on the Great Recession. Not that they did a particularly good job of it....

There may be signs of hope... sprigs of green pushing out of the late winter snows... stock prices have rebounded... the big banks have paid off most of the TARP money... GM reported its first annual profit since 2004 (there were quarterly profits in 2010 and 2007)....

But however healthy things seem at the top of the economy (thanks all too often to the massive and timely infusions of taxpayer money), for the rest of us, those deemed small enough to fail, things don't seem to be getting better at all.

I had a client declare bankruptcy recently. If I did bankruptcy work, that might be a good thing for me... but I don't. What that client owes me won't drive me into bankruptcy by itself... but I am teetering on the brink, too.

Somebody asked me recently whether my business is trending up or down. "I think it's more a swirling motion," I responded. The February rent is not yet paid. March starts next week.

And, while I hope my own situation will improve soon, for the economy as a whole, it seems likely to get worse before it gets better: Governments at all levels are broke. Yet, in many states, such as Illinois, there is no incentive to stand up to the public employee unions that have such a large say in who attains elective office. So taxes must go up instead. (Tea Party pipe dreams notwithstanding, even a stiff dose of fiscal courage would probably include some sort of tax increases at almost all levels anyway. The shame of it is that there is no 'rightsizing' -- a hated private sector euphemism for layoffs -- likely in the public sector. Thus, however much taxes go up, we're really only postponing a day of reckoning.)

Although Illinois may have found one silver lining in all this: We had Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate hiding out in Rockford and Harvard and even Chicago, trying to prevent a vote on measures proposed by Wisconsin's Republican Governor, Scott Walker, that would require public sector employees to contribute more to their own health care and pension costs, limit their right to strike, limit their union's rights to bargain to wages only and not working conditions, and limit the extent of raises that may be granted. Meanwhile, Democratic legislators fleeing Indianapolis (where a right to work vote was set for the Indiana legislature) took refuge in places like downstate Champaign.

Finally a growth industry in Illinois! Playing host to legislators shirking their duties in other states. As long as they don't thereafter shirk their bills here....

3 comments:

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

have you considered trying to renegotiate your lease now? the law firm i used to work in would do that, when things were bad the landlord would rather that than an empty office. lower rent, starting a few months out, lots of things to consider or offer to him? just a thought...

smiles, bee
tyvc

Shel said...

Well, they're only following the example set by Texas legislators in 2003.
Working as an hourly employee in retail, with no union representation and therefore no "safety net" should my employer take an irrational dislike to me (Illinois being a right to work state, you know), I have to sympathize with the public sector employees here. Maybe they don't need ALL the perks they're getting, but believe me, if I had them offered to me I'd jump at them and wouldn't be happy about giving them up either. No, I'm not saying they shouldn't make sacrifices and help the econonmy by lightening up their demands. But I am saying I see their point.

The Curmudgeon said...

Shel -- Illinois is not a "right to work state" -- that refers to the right of a worker to hold a union job without joining the union that bargains for those workers or even paying dues. That's never gonna happen here.

Illinois is an at-will employment state. An at-will employee may be discharged for almost any reason (so long as the reason for firing does not violate a Federal discrimination statute. It doesn't have to be a good reason. One can be fired for stupid reasons: Thus, the South Side car salesman who was fired for wearing a Green Bay Packers tie to work. I think that's what you were talking about.

I guess I have problems paying (by my taxes) for public employees to have protections I can never hope for. It's a question of balance -- and the pendulum has just swung too far at this point....