Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here weekly.
Is your wallet ready for Nov. 6? The presidential race has dominated conversations in our media, kitchens and workplaces. It’s practically the only thing clients and callers to my radio show want to talk about: What’s going to happen to my money, post-election? (Among my recent posts: How a “fiscal cliff” would affect you and Can the economy predict the election?)
This obsession with the election is understandable. We’re angry that Washington — paralyzed by unparalleled partisan gridlock –- seems unable to make headway on our economic problems. It’s no surprise public approval of Congress has fallen to just 10 percent — the lowest level since Gallup started keeping track in 1974.
But here’s the thing: The economy and the stock market seem oblivious to the wrangling and bungling in Washington. The economy is still in fragile “comeback mode” while the stock market continues to post gains — up a robust 15-plus percent so far in 2012.
How can that be? Isn’t the federal government central to our economic life? Not really. Think of our economy as an ocean. There are 300 million people out there buying things, selling things, saving money, investing in stocks, hiring people, starting businesses, developing new products. That’s a deep, wide, powerful, swirling sea of activity that’s nearly impossible to control.
The economy has its own rules and whims
Washington, on the other hand, is like a circus on a pier that juts into the sea. The circus and the pier may have a minor impact on the nearby waters — mostly by marring their natural beauty and flow — but it has little to no influence on the ocean as a whole.
So why do we pay so much attention to the federal government’s role in money matters? Because it does, of course, have some impact, most notably via its tax policies. But Washington also has a circus-like ability to dazzle and distract us with lights, music and illusions that scream, “Look at me!”
Regardless of what happens Nov. 6, the economy will continue to ebb and flow according to its own rules and whims. A new administration and Congress will make their presence felt. But those 300 million people will still produce and innovate, all of them striving for a better life for themselves, their families and their country.
Let’s imagine Washington somehow could end the gridlock. What would you want Congress and the president do to help the economy — both in the short term and for the long run?
– Wes Moss, for AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog