Local Economist Says Recession Is a Strong Possibility

A local econimist utters the "r" word in his annual real estate forecast for Houston. He warns everyone to brace for a bumpy ride thanks to the uncertain US economy. Pat Hernandez has more.
The real estate market has created spillover effects to other key sectors of the economy, particularly the financial sector. That brings us to the question...are we headed into a recession?

"If we have a recession, it won't be as bad as many people fear, but regardless of whether we have a recession, it's likely to be much more prolonged than people think."

Dr. Barton Smith, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston, says the US economy is showing some of the characteristics of the booming Japanese economy in the 70s & 80s before it crashed in the 90s:

"After that crash, it's just incredible stagnation of the Japanese economy. The question is... are we headed for something like that? Some people have talked about the word STAGFLATION. I think that's the wrong word, but we are at risk of at least seeing a prolonged economic slowdown partly because of the types of solutions that politicians are coming up with right now are quick fix solutions that's not gonna last."

They're not addressing the underlying problems of the American economy and proposals being considered might do more harm than good.

"We got into this mess because Americans as a whole government have been spending beyond their means. And so, what are we trying to do? We're trying to induce the consumer to keep spending. Don't ever quit spending. We're having to paddle our way upstream harder and harder to try to keep ourselves from going backwards—wrong move."

Houstonians have weathered the national crisis because of the strong energy sector, but Smith says we need to recognize that we're not immune:

"The Houston consumer is no different than the American consumer. They're feeling the pinch in the pocketbook with three dollar and fifty-cent a gallon, and they'll really feel it this summer when they have to pay their air conditioning bill. So, many of the problems that we face are problems that the U-S economy faces. So, we're not immune. We're just cushioned thank goodness, because we've got the energy economy right now that's cranking out jobs."

Wherever we go in the next few months is almost irrelevant to where we're headed in the next few years, and Dr Smith says we have to change our consumptive behavior and start living within our means.

Pat Hernandez. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Pat Hernandez


Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...