Monday, September 7, 2009

The economy's known unknowns

isconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
September 7, 2009

By Bill Kraus


Cars: It seems we don’t need a new car after all. Styles don’t change. New models' improvements are minimal. The one we own was built to last. We’ll keep it.

Houses: The McMansion era may be history. Those who own them would move to something smaller and less bucolic in a New York minute if they could sell the one they own. But there’s a big inventory of unsold monsters that has to be whittled down first.

Anything that’s fashion driven: Sort of the antipathy of anything we need.

Art: A lot of art sales are driven by housing, which is going nowhere. Most of the rest is discretionary.

Sports: We love our Packers and Badgers so they’re safe, but other fans are less smitten. There are going to be TV blackouts where NFL games aren’t sold out. Golf tournaments are looking in vain for sponsors. Golf courses are looking in vain for players.

Advertising-driven media: We all know that newspapers are either dead or dying. If part of health care reform is a ban on advertising prescription drugs to incipient hypochondriacs, TV will follow suit. How many network shows can lite beer carry after all?

Charities, do-good, and trade organizations: All hurting. Some more than others. People with weak cash flows and their own structural deficits to worry about are understandably reluctant to borrow money to give away. Even dutiful tithers are tithing against a smaller base number.


It’s hard to think of many things that are booming. Maybe mattresses. A country that was characterized by zero savings has suddenly started putting money away (in mattresses?) at a ferocious pace. This may be propelled by a fear of rainy days ahead. Since it’s already raining, the move to the mattresses is hardly misguided.


What about politics? If the health care proposal is an indicator, the forces of the status quo are still digging deep when threatened with change.

What has yet to be determined is whether this kind of generosity will extend to candidates for major offices like governor and Congress. It is possible that, like charities and other organizations, these candidates may be asked to get by with less. Since the spending on these races in this century has been somewhere between excessive and outrageous, it is not unreasonable to expect a return to what we used to regard as normal here.

Maybe a tougher test will be the multi-million dollar races for legislative seats that will determine majorities in the statehouse.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the big and small political contributors may have started to wonder if they have done anything beyond making a few mercenaries and some TV station owners rich and whether this is a particularly good idea.

There is even a possibility that the people who are assaulted and demeaned by TV-dominated negative political campaigns might respond to a poor boy campaign if any candidate had the guts to try one. It’s even possible that many candidates will have no choice.

The recession as an unintended but welcome campaign finance reformer? What an idea!

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