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First Person: Ted C. Jones, Ph.D., Senior VP & Chief Economist, Stewart Title Guaranty Company

Feb/Mar 10
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Has the stimulus bill helped?
It's the most unstimulating stimulus we have ever seen as a country in my lifetime. American taxpayers have had enough and want to see some different kinds of spending. I'm forecasting in the next 60 to 90 days, Congress will go in and pass another stimulus bill. They will spend another $200 billion, and we will finally see incentives for small business, which create 70 to 90 percent of all jobs. Jobs are absolutely everything to our economy, and all of our spending up to now has not been focused on job creation.

What impact will rising oil prices have on the economy?
If oil were produced in the U.S. by U.S workers, then we would be employing a whole lot of people. Unfortunately, we are importing not quite 70 percent of our oil. The largest tax that the taxpayer pays is for overseas oil because it's a net bleed of cash out of our system. Other than perhaps Canada and Mexico, most of the countries that we buy oil from don't buy a whole lot from us, so it's a net leakage out of our system. If we want to put this country back to work, we would start to take a serious look at alternative forms of energy that are economically viable. In the long run, we're going to see some of this, but right now the economics are not there.

What should businesses do now to weather this storm?
This is a time to go back and rethink your business model. This is a time that you minimize your expenses and vigorously appeal your property taxes. This is the time to be a survivor, and being a survivor doesn't necessarily mean being a nice guy. This is the time to understand that your customers' expectations are different than they were 24 months ago. Your customer wants it faster, quicker, now. If you don't respond to your customer, someone else will, so this is a time that you go back and be in touch with your customers. When we come out the other side, the survivors are going to be kings of their kingdom. They are going to have accumulated, maintained, and grown their wealth.

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