Q&A with economic pundit Bill Conerly

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

BillConerly.jpg Who ya gonna call?

HEADY TIMES  if you’re an economic pundit. The economy is getting sour, so TV stations want your sound bite and reporters want your quotes. It might be a bad time to be a mortgage broker, or a banker, or a construction worker, but it’s high times on the media gravy train for econ warriors like Bill Conerly. Conerly is one of the region’s best-known economists and author of Businomics: From Headlines to Your Bottomline, How to Profit in Any Economic Cycle. As such, he’s had calls from wisdom-hungry media ranging from USA Today to the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. In a gloomy market, Conerly is a go-to guy. We caught up with him recently to extract a little wisdom.

Let’s get this out of the way at the top. Recession. Yes or no? Maybe. It’s either a recession or a recession-ette. For many businesses, a near-recession is pretty darn harsh anyway.

Is the economic gloom keeping you busy? I’ve done a lot more media interviews lately. When everything is going along fine, the economy is not in the news. Starting late last year reporters I hadn’t talked to in years began calling. There was a time when it was exciting to be interviewed on TV, but I’m 20 years past that. But I’m not 20 years past loving economics. I fell in love with it when I was 16. My wife asks me why I keep working. If I were retired, I would still be getting up in the morning checking the economic news. I might as well get paid for it.

How stupid are journalists about economics? There are some very sharp people in the journalism profession and there are some very stupid ones.

How stupid is everyone else? On a scale of 1-10, the country is a 3 in overall economic intelligence. People who are not well informed are more fearful. The presidential election doesn’t help. There is rarely anything sensible coming out of the mouths of candidates. Virtually every candidate is talking about jump-starting the economy. The consensus among all of us economists is that the president doesn’t run the economy.

Do you answer the same questions over and over? Yeah, over and over. Some of the smart reporters know the answers but need me on the record saying it. Some of the reporters are just so totally clueless. Some reporters are covering an economic story because that’s what they have to do to get to their ultimate goal: the ax murder beat.

Any special beauty routine for your TV appearances? No. For a while I was thinking I should keep a jacket and a tie around. But I am what I am.

Dating a supermodel yet? No, but people will ask me about Giselle, the Brazilian model who asked to be paid in euros not dollars. And for the record, I don’t comment on economic groupies.

ROBIN DOUSSARD


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