Tom Keene Talks to William Dunkelberg

Tom talks with William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, about small business and the economy

The small business optimism index dropped to 90 in June. What’s going on?
Here we are two years into the alleged recovery and the optimism index is still firmly in recession territory. During the recovery in ’83, ’84, two years out from the bottom in ’82, the index was 12 points higher.

In ’83 and ’84, the oldest boomers were in their thirties. That’s when you buy a house. We’re seeing the opposite here, aren’t we?
Housing is absolutely dead in the water. By demographic terms, we should be doing 1.5 million starts. We are doing 500,000. That is a million starts missing with who knows how many new jobs per start—four or five.

How do you shape policy to solve this problem?
We have a situation where we have to declare the winners and losers, and it is a very tough process. We cannot move the houses from the surplus area to where we would like to have them. And, of course, politicians don’t have patience because there are these things called elections.

When do things start looking up?
Things would be looking up if we could just get some sensible solution to the deficit. Ordinary folk see Athens, and they worry that could be us. They cannot comprehend $14 trillion in debt. It scares them to death.

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