Prof. Fuller Caps Off Enrichment Day with Reassuring Economic Report

Posted: October 31, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

As if the warm, fuzzy feelings generated by Faculty-Staff Enrichment Day workshops, vendor displays, comfort food and raffle prizes weren’t enough, Mason public policy professor Stephen Fuller left attendees feeling that the economy isn’t really so bad after all.

Stephen Fuller
Stephen Fuller
Photo by Evan Cantwell

Of course, Fuller, who heads Mason’s Center for Regional Analysis, had lots of numbers and graphs to back up his assertion that the Washington, D.C., region where Mason is located is marching to a slightly different tune than the rest of the country.

Saying that “It’s easy to get excited” about the “bad stuff” we’re hearing about the financial markets, Fuller pointed out that “Wall Street isn’t the economy.” Only 50 percent of Americans own stocks. However, he admitted all the negative talk “affects behavior, and spending makes the economy hum.”

Fuller took the audience through the major indicators that point to a downturn, such as unemployment and the housing inventory. On those fronts, Washington, D.C., isn’t faring so badly, with one of the lowest unemployment rates among major U.S. cities. In addition, “The housing inventory is high, and prices are low,” he said, adding that 2009 would be a good year to buy a house in the local area since interest rates will be reasonable (and they are likely to go up the following year).

Oil prices are likely to continue to fall, but only in the short term, he predicted. By 2010, prices will start drifting upward indefinitely.

What will happen in the very near future? Well, Fuller said, “The election will make people feel better for awhile.” As the economy starts to stabilize, the stock market will go up first. People will focus on paying off their credit card debt, but “It will be harder to write ourselves loans in the future,” Fuller noted.

People should be optimistic, concluded Fuller, who seems to be naturally optimistic himself. And while you’re waiting out the bad times “read books,” he suggested.

For more information on Fuller’s economic analyses, see the Center for Regional Analysis web site.

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