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SMU Gurus Predict “Sluggish” Growth

There was some good news but a whole lot more that was pretty bad when the fifth annual SMU Cox Economic Outlook Panel convened this morning in a room off Cox Dean Al Niemi Jr.’s office on The Hilltop. First, the good stuff: Europe’s in recession, but it probably won’t whack the U.S. or Texas. America’s on track to be energy independent by the end of the decade. Retailers are in for another “strong” holiday season, with 5 percent sales growth. And DFW’s at the top nationally, or near the top, when it comes to the big commercial real estate categories.

So what’s so bad? U.S. growth will continue to be “painfully sluggish” next year, below 2 percent. At the current rate, we won’t be back to full employment until 2030. Housing’s on the rebound, but it’s still way below par. Medicare and payroll taxes are about to go up, hitting middle-class working stiffs hardest. The banking crisis has cost us $10 trillion to $20 trillion (we’re a $15 trillion economy). And the gap between rich and poor hasn’t been this wide since the 1920s. All that said, the gurus agreed: We’re better off than most Americans living here in DFW, Texas. So there’s that.