The Return of Honesty
By sunrise tomorrow, barring legal delays, we should know who won the election. And if we do, it will again be permissible to speak the truth. So when Republicans are asked if the storm and Gov. Chris Christie helped President Obama, they won’t have to dodge the question and say how their heart goes out to the poor souls who caught the right – meaning windy – side of a massive storm. If they lose they can simply say the S.O.B. killed us. And both parties will be able to be candid about the economy. If President Obama wins, he can say he did not cause the great recession, and he did not cure it. But it is ending, and as economists have been telling us for four years, it pretty much ended itself. And barring an international catastrophe, things will continue to improve no matter who runs the country. There has been so much distortion, and denial, on the political front for the last few years that it is hard to find a single issue where either side has been totally truthful. The one that hits closest to home, and has been hitting for several years, is the state of the economy. More than once we have mobilized the language to offset the incessant drum beat that things are terrible and the world is ending. Recall FDR’s famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Our concern was that negative politicking affects all business by scaring people. And also, that it just wasn’t true. Our magazine business, whose advertisers represent a broad section of South Florida’s economy, started to recover from a very bad 2008 at exactly the time the experts predicted we would hit bottom – and the stock market began recovering. That was the fall of 2009. Our business improved in each year since. Not much, only a few percent each year, but that is about what the forecasters expected. This year has been up and down, but mostly up. Then, when the unemployment numbers started improving, all heaven broke loose. Advertising contracts in September jumped more than 40 percent. In November, a stunning 85 percent. This almost assures that for the year we will be up at least 25 percent over 2011. Now contracts are not martinis, and there is always some erosion as people change their minds, but those numbers largely hold up.
This is not so much about us. We did not do things much differently from year to year. But it is about the confidence of the market, with businesses making plans for a year or two down the road. Happy days may not be here again, but the world has not ended. By tomorrow, both parties may have the honesty to admit that.