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Jones: Economy improving in spite of politicians

Economist finds kernels of optimism amid ‘economic hurricane’

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 9:43 a.m. CDT

A “fiscally conservative” economist, during a colorful presentation at Morris Country Club Thursday, told a crowd of area community leaders that the economy is improving.

Ted Jones, chief economist at Stewart Title Guaranty Company, said at a breakfast that both sides of the political aisle are “wrong,” but that the economy is improving anyway.

“The economy is coming back despite what the government’s done to us,” Jones said.

Jones, a former professor at Texas A&M, was critical of politicians — both Democrats and Republicans — though most of his scrutiny was reserved for the left.

He blamed entitlements, government regulation and President Barack Obama’s healthcare legislation for slow economic recovery and said the economic downturn “wasn’t all [Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s] fault.”

“Government can’t fix everything, nor should it try,” Jones said.

Jones, who described himself as a “fiscal conservative who’s never voted a party ticket,” also had some criticism of the right’s focus on cutting spending.

“If you cut government spending too much, you’ll put us right back in a recession,” Jones said.

While much of his lecture, “Things Are Looking Up After Economic Hurricane,” presented a somewhat dreary economic outlook, Jones saw some kernels of optimism.

Retail and food sales are up, as are the commercial real estate market and home purchase activity, while automobile sales are returning to normal, Jones said.

Jones also pointed to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a potential source of energy and jobs.

“That is a deal changer,” he said.

The nation added 175,000 jobs in May and 47 states are seeing positive job growth, according to Jones. Maine, Wisconsin and Wyoming are those that are not.

Jones, who is based in Houston, said that although Illinois “[does] not have a very good business environment,” Grundy County is fairing well.

“You have more people working in this county than any other time in history,” Jones said.

A brief question-and-answer session followed in which Jones addressed the albatross of Illinois pensions, the future of the global economy, and Obamacare.

Jones said public employees are retiring too early and should contribute more to public pensions.

“You’ve had public employees that have basically controlled your government,” Jones said.

He suggested the global economy has suffered because of too many entitlements, saying, “The party can’t go on forever.”

He “does not like Obamacare at all” and said, “We’re losing jobs because of Obamacare.”

The event, which saw local officials and business leaders in attendance, was hosted by Standard Bank and Trust Company.

Kelly Beatty, president of the Southern Region Standard Bank, said in remarks that the past five years have been trying economically, but that things are looking up.

“We’re excited about the future,” Beatty said. “We think we’re going in the right direction.”

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