OMAHA, Neb., September 9, 2015 - Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss loves his perch in Omaha, Nebraska, surveying and heralding trends in the American heartland’s economy.
He’s been at it for more than two decades: In 1994, he initiated a 12-state monthly Mid-American Business Conditions report, and in 2006 added the Rural Mainstreet Index, based on surveys of nearly 200 rural bank executives.
A transplant from Georgia, Goss believes he operates in the nation’s most vibrant regional economy: a swath of states from North Dakota and Minnesota south to Arkansas and Oklahoma, plus Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to the west. He says his surveys, like the regional economy they track, are heavily weighted toward energy and agriculture.
“These are very volatile areas of the economy . . . what would be a modest change on the East Coast gets multiplied by four or five times here because they are dealing with the most volatile parts of the economy,” he says. “I teach supply and demand in my classes, but these folks live supply and demand,” he says, so economists have a crucial role to play examining and reporting on that region’s conditions.
Goss also likes his Midwestern university environment, and recently launched the Institute for Economic Inquiry, which proclaims its intent to “further the study and practice of human flourishing in a free society. He espouses free trade, and says the IEI’s role is to “promote understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of free-market economics.”
The IEI is funded in part by the Charles Koch Foundation, famous for its support of conservative politics and free-market, anti-regulation candidates. But Goss also sides with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a progressive candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, in lambasting the Federal Reserve Board for “pandering” to Wall Street.
“Bernie Sanders and I both reject crony capitalism – in other words, policies designed to enhance Wall Street and big banks on the East Coast, which aren’t necessarily good for this part of the country . . . or for that matter, the U.S. economy.”
Goss, however, does hope and expect the Fed will finally start easing rates up in December, leaving behind its rock-bottom 0.75 percent “emergency rate” to banks. A quarter-percentage rate hike, he says, rather than slow the U.S. economy, would spur purchases by many who have delayed spending, thinking super-low rates would last forever. With a rate hike, the Fed would signal its own confidence in the U.S. economic growth. He notes that 70 percent of the bankers in the Creighton survey expect such a modest rate increase would have no negative effect on the economy overall.
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