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DorobekInsider: What the Wall Street mess means to you?

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Let’s be honest — all most of us can think about these days is the economy. Even if we’re not churning about what this might mean for the government, we’re thinking about it in terms of what it means for our retirement. (Did your statement arrive in the mail? Yikes!)

PBS’s NewsHour tonight had Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, who is a regular blogger and generally worth reading. And his comments on the NewsHour last night are also worth reading (or listening to)…

Orszag was asked about retirement issues… and was to the point…

Basically, if you have, say, a 401(k) plan and it goes down, you only have three choices. You can save more now to try to make up for it; you can spend less once you’re retired; or you can work longer. Those are the three choices.

These choices apply to TSP accounts too, of course.

He also helped to put the deficit numbers in context…

Seven hundred and fifty billion dollars would be about 5.5 percent of the economy. That’s a big number. It’s not the largest ever, but it’s a big number.

And then he spoke about the impact on government spending… (ital is added by me)

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, then, the next, of course, major question is, what kind of impact would these kind of deficits have on government spending?

PETER ORSZAG: Well, we were — even before this, we were on an unsustainable fiscal course. And, you know, one thing we need to remember is we’re lucky that we have the maneuvering room now to issue lots of additional Treasury securities and intervene aggressively to address this crisis.

JEFFREY BROWN: Wait a minute. Explain that. Lucky in what sense? That we just have the money available?

PETER ORSZAG: That people are still willing to lend to us. If in 20 or 30 years we continue on the same path, with rising health care costs and rising budget deficits, we would reach a point where we wouldn’t even have that ability.

And so if another crisis like this one hits, we would then not have the maneuvering room that we currently have to address it in a prompt way.

JEFFREY BROWN: But even in the next year, say, when you look at various things that are talked about — well, the health care system, for one. That’s one you’ve studied a lot. There are implications for any possible reforms or programs that anybody might want to implement.

PETER ORSZAG: I think it’s going to be very likely that, early next year and into much of next year, most of the economic policy discussion will be surrounding the financial markets, and so it’s going to be hard to get other topics on the agenda, not just for fiscal reasons, but also just because we’re all human beings and there’s a limited amount of time and attention that can be given to different topics.

JEFFREY BROWN: We’ve heard the candidates asked about this, and my colleagues Jim and Gwen have both asked them in the debates they moderated about the implications. You’re saying there’s no doubt that, whoever takes office, will have to deal with this?

PETER ORSZAG: We had to deal with it. We have to deal with our long-term fiscal problems. We had to deal with them before this financial crisis occurred. All the more so, as we emerge from the crisis, we better get our hands around the fiscal course that we’re on.

Again, primarily because, if we don’t, we’re going to wind up with a crisis that’s even worse than today’s and we won’t have the ability to address it in any sensible way.

And while nobody can predict the future, I tend to agree with him — it sure seems that the economic issues are going to suck up the oxygen leaving little money for new programs.

All of that being said, Harvard Prof. Steve Kelman, who is also a FCW columnist and blogger, has a wonderful post suggestig that the economic upheval might spur young people to look at government work.

Over the past few years, something like one-third of graduating MBA students at the Harvard Business School took jobs in investment banking (or “I-banking” in student lingo). A similar proportion of graduating seniors at elite universities have gotten their first jobs in that industry in recent years as well. It is a fair assumption that such jobs will come close to completely disappearing for students graduating this June.

Graduating students are always the canary in the coal mine for the economy: When employers cut back, they cut back first on new hires, before letting existing employees go. This year is shaping up as an extremely dramatic example of this phenomenon, probably at elite universities in particular, where there was so much recruitment into the sectors hardest hit by the current economic situation.

The current issue of the student newspaper at the Kennedy School reports that Harvard Business School has hired psychological counselors to help students suffering from anxiety attacks. Given the extent to which students sign on for MBA programs in the hopes this is a ticket to financial wealth, these students are probably particularly affected by this reversal of fortunes.

Continue reading Kelman’s post here.

Written by cdorobek

October 9, 2008 at 11:15 PM

Posted in budget, Workforce

Tagged with , ,