Sachs Prescribes Telescope Over Microscope
Jeffrey Sachs, Professor at Columbia University and one of Time magazine’s “100 most influential people” recommends that our country takes a longer-term view in handling our problems (read Sachs’s full bio). Instead of analyzing everything through a microscope, Sachs realizes that peering out over the horizon with a telescope may provide a clearer path to success versus getting sidetracked in the emotional daily battles of noise.
I do my fair share of media and politician bashing, but every once in a while it’s magnificent to discover and enjoy a breath of fresh common sense, like the advice coming from Sachs. Normally, I become suffocated with a wet blanket of incessant, hyper-sensitive blabbering that comes from Washington politicians and airwave commentators. With the advent of this thing we call the “internet,” the pace and volume of daily information (see TMI “Too Much Information” article) crossing our eyeballs has only snowballed faster. Rather than critically evaluate the fear-laced news, the average citizen reverts back to our Darwinian survival instincts, or to what Seth Godin calls the “Lizard Brain. ”
Sachs understands the lingering nature to our country’s problems, so in pulling out his long-term telescope, he created a broad roadmap to recovery – many of the points to which I agree. Here is an abbreviated list of his quotes:
“Despite the evident need for a rise in national saving after 2008, President Barack Obama tried to prolong the consumption binge by aggressively promoting home and car sales to already exhausted consumers, and by cutting taxes despite an unsustainable budget deficit. The approach has been hyper short-term, driven by America’s two-year election cycle. It has stalled because US consumers are taking a longer-term view than the politicians.”
On Differences between China and the U.S.:
“China saves and invests; the US talks, consumes, borrows, and talks some more.”
On Why Tax Cuts and Stimulus Alone Won’t Work:
“Short-term tax cuts or transfers on top of America’s $1,500bn budget deficit are unlikely to do much to boost demand, while they would greatly increase anxieties over future fiscal retrenchment. Households are hunkering down, and many will regard an added transfer payment as a temporary windfall that is best used to pay down debt, not boost spending.”
On Malaise Hampering Businesses:
“Businesses, for their part, are distressed by the lack of direction….Uncertainty is a real killer.”
On 5-Point Plan to a U.S. Recovery:
1) Increased Clean Energy Investments: The recovery needs “a significant boost in investments in clean energy and an upgraded national power grid.”
2) Infrastructure Upgrade: “A decade-long program of infrastructure renovation, with projects such as high-speed inter-city rail, water and waste treatment facilities and highway upgrading, co-financed by the federal government, local governments and private capital.”
3) Further Education: “More education spending at secondary, vocation and bachelor-degree levels, to recognize the reality that tens of millions of American workers lack the advanced skills needed to achieve full employment at the salaries that the workers expect.”
4) Infrastructure Exports to the Poor: “Boost infrastructure exports to Africa and other low-income countries. China is running circles around the US and Europe in promoting such exports of infrastructure. The costs are modest – essentially just credit guarantees – but the benefits are huge, in increased exports, support for African development and a boost in geopolitical goodwill and stability.”
5) Deficit Reduction Plan: “A medium-term fiscal framework that will credibly reduce the federal budget deficit to sustainable levels within five years. This can be achieved partly by cutting defense spending by two percentage points of gross domestic product.”
Rather than succumb to the nanosecond, fear-induced headlines that rattle off like rapid fire bullets, Sachs supplies thoughtful long-term oriented solutions and ideas. The fact that Sachs mentions the word “decade” three times in his Op-ed highlights the lasting nature of these serious problems our country faces. To better see and deal with these challenges more clearly, I suggest you borrow Sachs’s telescope, and leave the microscope in the lab.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
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