Tea Leaf: The ABCs of the U.S. economy

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 13 2011 1:00 p.m. MST

Retirement — The term will take on new meaning in coming decades as more and more people "bridge the gap" (work two or three days a week) between working full-time and moving into full retirement. Millions of retirement-age baby boomers will prefer (or need) to keep one foot in the workplace for a long time to come.

Social Security — Steps taken sooner rather than later to slow down the future growth rate of spending are required. It would be great if politicians would stop calling it spending cuts … and scaring people!

Taxes — Boosting capital gains, dividend, and income tax rates on the top 3% of income earners remains the President's goal, IF he survives the 2012 election. Like it or not, these are primarily the people who create jobs and invest. The Administration's focus on "income redistribution" rather than on providing "incentives for U.S. economic growth" remains troubling.

Unemployment — Likely to remain above 8.2% during the next 12-18 months, after averaging 9.0% during the past three years. Hundreds of thousands of people who previously left the labor force after becoming discouraged could return to the labor force, keeping the rate high.

Visitors (foreign) — Tens of thousands of additional foreign residents would visit the U.S. (and spend money aggressively) if we didn't make it so hard for them to come.

Wall Street — Simply stated … I remain a long-term bull on stocks.

Xmas — Retail spending is expected to rise 3.0%-5.0% versus last year. As before, aggressive discounting will drive consumer traffic.

Youth — My parents "came of age" with Pearl Harbor … my peers with Kennedy's assassination and Vietnam. For millions of Generations X and Y, September 11 and the "Great Recession" will be forever etched into their consciousness.

JaZZ (Utah) — We used to think of them as one of the NBA's elite teams. Now they are rebuilding. Can they be any good? Like the little train … We think we can … we think we can … we think we can.

Jeff Thredgold is the chief economist for Zions Bank and founder of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting firm. Visit www.thredgold.com.

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