December 2, 2010

Analysis: ‘Less worse is the new excellent’

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“Less worse is the new the excellent.”

Those are the words of contemporary wisdom that economist Anirban Basu shared with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce at a breakfast this week.

“The recession is now over,” Basu declared, although to hear the business people talk of tightening belts, you wouldn’t know it.

“We’re losing jobs half as quickly” as we were earlier in the year, Basu said. “The major problem is male unemployment.”

He said the steepest job losses nationally have been in male-dominated industries, such as construction and manufacturing.

Economic and policy uncertainty from Washington is also deadening the recovery, he said, as businesses hold back hiring and expansion plans.

“We’re lucky to be in this region,” Basu said. The Baltimore-Washington area rates among the tops in the nation in terms of federal stimulus dollars per square mile, a figure Basu computed. He was not impressed with how the stimulus dollars were targeted, but the next four months will actually see “the most intense stimulus spending,” as the big bucks in the pipeline actually start flowing into the economy.

“Size does matter,” Basu said, “and size overcomes poor technique.”

Len Lazarick