Stone World

Are Obama Fans Too Optimistic?

January 21, 2009


Regardless of where you fall in the political spectrum, you are likely looking forward to a change in Washington. If you are a business owner or manager, you are especially excited by the prospects of a new cadre of leaders generating optimism among consumers.

I am right there with you. Consumer confidence is the lynchpin to fixing our broken economy.

Here’s an example of how this works. Today I got a call from XM Radio, touting its new offerings from its merger with Sirius Satellite Radio. This is at least the third call from XM since I let my free trial expire a couple months ago.

They offered me a sweet deal. They were discounting their service even further than the “half off the first year” deal they originally offered. Now, they wanted to restore my old service, plus give me 40 additional channels, for just $3.99/month.

I actually thought their service was pretty cool. Catching a few laughs on the Blue Collar Comedy channel is a nice perk when so much negative news is at hand. But I turned them down.

Hence, I am part of the problem. People representing companies with good products are hearing the word “no” to even the very best offers. Like dominos falling, each “no” leads to more pessimism.

My colleague Dan Murfey, publisher of Site Prep magazine, just returned from the Association of Equipment Distributors-Condex show in San Diego. Although attendance was down, cautious optimism was up. Why?

Dan explained that President Obama’s stimulus program promising a massive public works program has given construction equipment manufacturers hope. Many are projecting that the second half of 2009 will produce an increase in orders for backhoes, skid steers, excavators and more. This kind of optimism will go a long way to regaining economic momentum. The more people say yes to buying products and services, the more our economy will rebound.

Unfortunately, there are footnotes to this theory, as noted by the pundits who populate our airwaves. One observer commented that public works projects for infrastructure like roads, bridges and water systems are notoriously slow to develop. These projects often take years-not months-to complete. We might not see any measureable stimuli to our economy until 2010 or 2011.

Another pundit took shots at the “green jobs” President Obama hopes to create. The pundit claimed that goals for green job creation dwarf the ability of industries like solar and alternative energy to absorb new workers at a viable pace.

Skeptics might have a point. Can well-intentioned federal job-creation programs really meet the lofty expectations? I’ll bet my new Obama commemorative plate that many of these programs will be busts. But some may work beyond our dreams.

What about you? With our new leadership in Washington promising change and hope, are you ready to buy products and services that you’ve postponed purchasing in recent months?