... And another thing: Economy of sunshine, raindrops

... And another thing: Economy of sunshine, raindrops

August 29th, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Good News, Bad News

Though there's some question if one should ever celebrate a deficit, the country's deficit is expected to decline to $506 billion this year, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. And its 2.9 percent of gross domestic product is within traditional ranges of the last 40 years. That's good news.

That's the lowest the deficit has been since fiscal 2007, before the country fell into recession, when it came in at $160.7 billion.

The country can thank Republicans for forcing President Obama's hand in 2011 to make more than $2 trillion in spending cuts over the following decade to help forge lower deficits, but because little came from entitlement programs, the deficits are not expected to fall significantly more over the next decade.

However, the CBO also said the economy would grow only 1.5 percent this year, a shocking 42 percent lower than the 2.6 percent the administration predicted just last month. That's bad news.

Unemployment, the budget estimate said, would remain under 6 percent into the future. That's good news. However, that's mainly because many people are employed in part-time jobs when they'd like full-time jobs and because so many have stopped looking for work. That's bad news.

Because so many people have jobs, though, consumer confidence rose to a seven-year high this month -- for the second straight month. They believe jobs are available, gas prices fell recently and the stock market is at all-time highs. That's good.

But consumer confidence doesn't translate to spending as retail sales were flat in July. That's bad.

We'd love to believe the good news will dominate going forward, but the crystal ball doesn't indicate that. As the Affordable Care Act's ramifications hit more and more people -- and many are learning some of the bad news from their insurance companies this month -- it is likely to sink consumer confidence, cause some companies to restructure how they hire and and keep spending flat (or worse).

Putting The Eww In Uzi

Dads (and moms, probably) have been taking little Johnnys -- perhaps as young as 9 -- hunting for years, having taught them gun and hunting safety beforehand. But when did parents start allowing little Susies -- as young as 9 -- to practice with submachine guns on firing ranges?

The recent tragedy of a 9-year-old girl accidentally shooting a firing-range instructor in White Hills, Ariz., invites all kinds of questions and should force even the most rabid gun fan to ask if more people using more guns in more places is the right strategy.

The parents of the child were all in on the child's instruction, but why would a young girl need to know how to handle, much less use, an Uzi? Indeed, what, if ever, is the proper age for a child to learn how to use an Uzi?

Gun proponents may argue -- and they'd be right -- that the world is meaner and that lawbreakers will have guns no matter what. Little Susie, they might argue, may need to defend herself if someone breaks in when she's home alone after school.

What does it say, though, if arming her is the first solution?

Gun proponents may want no restriction on the use of any firearm by anyone, but it's surely not too restrictive to suggest some guns (most guns?) should be off limits to children. Even Tennessee's gun-happy General Assembly members would agree to that ... wouldn't they?

Book Thrown At Librarians

Chattanooga Public Library Executive Director Corinne Hill, the Library Journal's 2014 Librarian of the Year for her work in the Scenic City, has been criticized in a city auditor's probe, and two of her new executives have been reported to the state for suspected fraud.

City Auditor Stan Sewell's report shows Hill was doubly reimbursed for airfares, apprised of overages of more than $1,000 last winter but has not paid them back. Meanwhile, Assistant Library Director Nate Hill, no relation to the director, and System Administrator Meg Backus were reported to the state comptroller's office after they took multiple paid speaking and consulting jobs while being paid by the local library. Backus also was accused of making false statements to auditors and destroying relevant documents.

The library board is expected to look into the charges and determine any action at its meeting next week, but the probe is nothing to be swept under the stacks.

Corinne Hill, who was given a salary of $31,000 more than the previous executive director and whose salary was the sixth highest among city employees when she was hired in 2012, said in previous interviews her position was "about the work" and opined that library employees need to be smart about spending money.

Indeed, they do -- all of them.