A street level view of the political process

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
May 18, 2014

After listening to new Federal Reserve Board Chairman Janet Yellen last week, I turned to some other economic experts for their observations.

Marcus Bly owns Karworkz, an automobile detail shop on Sutherland Avenue. Karworkz is benefitting from what Marcus describes as a slowly improving economy. He is concerned, however, about the vast difference in the economic well-being of two groups generally at the opposite end of the economic spectrum: his employees and his customers.

Denita Bentley-Sharp owns and runs a small-town auto parts store. She is obviously a proponent of patronizing locally-owned businesses, but she still competes with the big box retailers by providing knowledgable customer service, to the point that she carries specific unique tractor parts that she knows her customers will need.

You don’t get that at AutoZone or Pep Boys.

Casey Parton is a consumer research analyst for a billion dollar New York Stock Exchange company. She sees consumer inflation everywhere except in the government reports, adding to her distrust of Washington. "Our prices are higher, our wages are higher, all of our other operating expenses are higher, but the government tells me that consumer prices only rose 1.5 percent in the last year? I don’t trust Washington a bit."

Jack Fertig is one of about a zillion former Tennessee assistant basketball coaches. He currently owns Cute Baby Name Gifts, a small custom baby gift retail business in California. He believes that President Obama’s early focus on healthcare was at the expense of the economy, negatively impacting our nation’s morale. “The economy should have been at the top of the President’s agenda.”

The general manager of a network television affiliate in Alabama was skeptical about the stock market, but even more skeptical about politicians. “Sometimes I feel as if the stock market is an insider’s game, but I think it should be okay unless those crazy people in Washington—and I mean all of them—don’t make things worse.”

Given my circle of friends, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the level of general dissatisfaction with the federal government, particularly the Affordable Care Act.

But I certainly didn’t expect that from Wendy, a 58-year-old convenience store employee earning about $9 an hour. “Obamacare is killing me,” were her first words in response to my simple question about only the economy. Before this year, she relied on the Interfaith Health Clinic. Now she pays $57 a week for her United Health plan. “The economy and the US government are so entangled and it’s bull [manure.]”

Wendy voted for President Obama.

Politicians typically get much more credit or blame for things that occur during their time in office. If nothing else, however, my incredibly unscientific query shows the influence of the political process on our psyche.

But Amy Church, a mortgage loan officer, is a bit more practical about the impact of politics and the Affordable Care Act. “Some people have health insurance; some don't. But almost everyone lives somewhere. We try to ignore all the noise and just make house loans."

Great advice, Amy.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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