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The improvement in the U.S. job market has been looking like it's for real, but the economy still has other challenges, such as its fairly stinky growth.
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In our 3rd-quarter 2016 Bankrate Economic Indicator survey of leading economists, we asked:
What's one thing that the next U.S. president and Congress could do to help the economy?
"Increase federal government investment in U.S. infrastructure spending. There is an immediate economic stimulus from construction, and additional economic benefits once (the work) is completed. Today, government borrowing costs remain low, so it's an opportune time, and the need is great."
-- Scott Anderson, chief economist, Bank of the West
"Get the dollar down to reduce the trade deficit. It would be better (to have) large budget deficits to fund infrastructure, but since that seems almost impossible politically, a lower trade deficit is the most feasible route back to full employment."
-- Dean Baker, co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
"Given the absolutely crucial role small and midsize businesses play in generating jobs and capital investments in this country, one major goal for Congress should be to reduce the regulatory burden on such firms."
-- Bernard Baumohl, adjunct professor, Florida Gulf Coast University
"Short-term: more infrastructure spending and efforts to encourage business investment. Long-term: early child education, greater funding for research and development."
-- Scott Brown, chief economist, Raymond James
"Set up a long-term infrastructure project. I would prefer an independent infrastructure task force that would choose worthy projects. The political consensus may choose to put in place an infrastructure bank or just finance the project out between 30-50 years. The projects should not just include roads, bridges, roads and waterways, but also sewage, the electrical infrastructure grid and the hardening of both the physical grid and overall cybersecurity."
-- Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist, RSM U.S.
"Enact some targeted fiscal policy, some growth-oriented combination of tax cuts and spending increases."
-- John Canally, chief economic strategist, LPL Financial
-- Gregory Daco, head of U.S. macroeconomics, Oxford Economics
"Infrastructure spending would boost economic growth in the short and longer term and support continued job growth, all at low cost based on low interest rates."
-- Robert Dietz, chief economist, National Association of Home Builders
"Get some real tax reform passed. That enables spending, improves expectations."
-- Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist, National Federation of Independent Business
"Tax reform that encourages U.S. economic growth, moves to further global trade to stimulate global economic growth, and efforts to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses."
-- Michael Fratantoni, chief economist, Mortgage Bankers Association
"Reducing the U.S. debt and deficit is key, since interest payments are likely to rise as the debt and deficit increase. Moreover, if interest rates increase in the future, interest payments on debt could also increase; this could be further impacted if demand for Treasuries as a 'safe haven' declines."
-- Nayantara Hensel, former chief economist, U.S. Navy
"Simplify regulatory structures."
-- Timothy Hopper, chief economist, TIAA
"The next president will need to try to reduce income inequality sensibly by: (a) increasing the capital-gains tax rates modestly (less than proposed by candidate Hillary Clinton); and (b) increasing spending on infrastructure. This will be to a great extent quite limited since the federal budget deficit and debt level are likely to begin to rise toward higher -- and certainly 'less acceptable' -- levels in (the) 2017-2018 time period."
-- Hugh Johnson, chairman and chief investment officer, Hugh Johnson Advisors
"Tax reform is an important ingredient that would help the economy jump its trend growth of 2%. We cannot continue to have the consumer serve as Atlas to the economy. Increased business investment is a critical path, and right now there is too much uncertainty."
-- Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist, National Retail Federation
"I would boost spending on much-needed infrastructure improvements, such as bridges, roads, and railways. This would create jobs in the short run and lift commerce over the long run. These are repairs and improvements that need to be made eventually, so why not now?"
-- Alan MacEachin, corporate economist, Navy Federal Credit Union
"Increase spending on infrastructure. The nation's infrastructure continues to deteriorate. Poor infrastructure ultimately limits the ability of the economy to grow. Further, spending on infrastructure would provide fiscal stimulus to the economy. At the moment, interest rates are low, building materials prices are reasonably stable (though now moving up) and a number of construction workers remain out of work. Thus, investing in infrastructure is a good policy choice. The one potential problem is that despite a number of unemployed construction workers, there is a shortage of some skilled construction workers. However, if implemented properly, these projects would help attract the necessary workers and provide the means to train and hire in these skill areas."
-- Bernard Markstein, president and chief economist, Markstein Advisors
"Encourage investment -- to help productivity growth."
-- Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist, High Frequency Economics
"The next U.S. president and Congress could implement pro-business policies, lower tax rates and cut government size and spending."
-- Lindsey Piegza, chief economist, Stifel
"Reduce the corporate tax rate, which, at 39%, puts U.S. firms at a major competitive disadvantage relative to other firms."
-- Lynn Reaser, chief economist, Fermanian Business and Economic Institute, Point Loma Nazarene University
"There is no one magic lever, but a combination of policies would be useful. For example, increased infrastructure spending would be valuable, but most effective if implemented with a focus on quality rather than politics and matched by action to address the long-term fiscal challenge. The Clinton campaign has done the opposite -- pushed for infrastructure without a focus on quality, and talked in the opposite direction of addressing the fiscal challenge over time."
-- Philip Swagel, professor of international economic policy, University of Maryland School of Public Policy
"Make policy and policy changes predictable. The economy can adjust to almost any policy landscape. It is the uncertainty that is hard to adjust to."
-- Polina Vlasenko, senior research fellow, American Institute for Economic Research
"Lower the corporate tax rate to bring U.S. profits sitting abroad back to America, and use the revenue to increase infrastructure spending."
-- Lawrence Yun, chief economist, National Association of Realtors
"Immigration reform to allow more educated and skilled workers into the country. A lack of skilled labor will be our biggest economic problem over the next couple of decades."
-- Mark Zandi, chief economist, Moody's Analytics
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