St Pete Times business columnist Robert Trigaux on the economy
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03/20/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

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Anger over how federal bailout funds are being spent by AIG and others is boiling over; news about housing and unemployment continues to get worse. It is in this climate that St. Petersburg Times business columnist Robert Trigaux spoke today about the economy to the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa.

Trigaux focused on how several challenges are affecting Florida’s economy. Housing foreclosures, insurance, the environment, tourism, and the stock market, continue to be economic challenges for the state, Trigaux says, as does unemployment.

In February, an article in The New Yorker magazine called Florida “The Ponzi State” because of how the state’s economy works. Or, Trigaux points out, doesn’t work as soon as growth tails off.

Trigaux notes that some anger over the $165 million dollars in bonuses handed out to AIG executives is misplaced because it only represents a fraction of the 170 billion dollars that taxpayers have injected into the company.

“That’s the equivalent of 10 cents on one hundred dollars in bonuses. That said, I still think that if we really wanted to, if the government really stepped in, they could get those contracts canceled. I think that’s a red herring that you just can’t cancel a contract. America does that all the time.”

Compared with America’s other economic problems, Trigaux feels there’s too much emphasis right now on the AIG bonuses.

“I do think we tend to miss the big picture. I think the economic climate is severe. … I think we are turning this [AIG bonuses] into a big distraction.”

Michael Steinberg is president of the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa and a former chair of the Democratic Executive Committee. Steinberg thinks the country can pull itself out of this recession like it has done other times in the past.

Mimi Osiason is from Tampa and thinks that the “no new taxes” mentality in Florida has hurt the state’s economy.

Democratic Party political consultant and lobbyist Victor DiMaio agrees that more government revenue could improve the economy and the standard of living for Floridians.

During his first term, President Obama plans to take on major initiatives in education, sustainability, and health care. All three of these would require huge federal expenditures. WMNF asked St. Petersburg Times business columnist Robert Trigaux whether American taxpayers will have the palate for additional spending at a time when they may be facing burn-out from spending trillions on stimulus packages and bail-outs.

“I’m assuming that President Obama will probably have to cut back on a number of the programs that he’s talking about as the reality of the economy sinks in. But I still think that it’s good that he’s out there talking about them.”

The New Yorker article: “The Ponzi State”

Tiger Bay Club of Tampa

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