Those with the capacity to hire American workers—small businesses as well as large, publicly traded or private—are immobilized. Not because they lack entrepreneurial zeal or do not wish to grow; not because they can’t access cheap and available credit. Rather, they simply cannot budget or manage for the uncertainty of fiscal and regulatory policy. In an environment where they are already uncertain of potential growth in demand for their goods and services and have yet to see a significant pickup in top-line revenue, there is palpable angst surrounding the cost of doing business. According to my business contacts, the opera buffa of the debt ceiling negotiations compounded this uncertainty, leaving business decision makers frozen in their tracks.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of a business operator. On the revenue side, you have yet to see a robust recovery in demand; growing your top-line revenue is vexing. You have been driving profits or just maintaining your margins through cost reduction and achieving maximum operating efficiency. You have money in your pocket or a banker increasingly willing to give you credit if and when you decide to expand.
But you have no idea where the government will be cutting back on spending, what measures will be taken on the taxation front and how all this will affect your cost structure or customer base. Your most likely reaction is to cross your arms, plant your feet and say: “Show me. I am not going to hire new workers or build a new plant until I have been shown what will come out of this agreement.”
Dallas Federal Reserve Board President Richard W. Fisher, speaking in Midland, Texas, on August 17, 2011
And, of course, the U.S. moved back into recession in the Second Quarter (and perhaps the First Quarter), with the current Third Quarter showing shocking deterioration in economic indicators.