Cautious optimism

Southern Nevada’s economy is in the initial stages of recovery and next year will be a much better year than 2011, UNLV economist Stephen Brown said Tuesday.

A recovery that began this year will continue, but probably at a slower pace than overall in the United States, the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research told about 300 business leaders at M Resort.

“We consolidated our losses and started growing in 2011, and in 2012 and 2013, we’ll see the fruits of that growth,” he said. Visitor volume has rebounded to 2007 levels and hotel occupancy has climbed above 85 percent, Mr. Brown reported.

All good news, make no mistake.

Brown acknowledged, however, that average room rates decreased by 25 percent to 30 percent from 2007, and tourists are spending less at the tables.

That makes sense. People spend when they’re confident they’ll still have a job and their investments will still produce returns. Prosperity requires something in addition to statistical growth — a public perception that better times lie ahead. So experience recommends a cautious optimism.

Mr. Brown argues the current debt-driven financial turmoil in Europe won’t directly affect U.S. markets in a negative way — could actually be beneficial, as people take their money out of Europe and invest it here. Why, even if GDP slows and the stock market drops, “I would disregard them,” as false and unreliable signals, Mr. Brown said.

Yes, the steady hand succeeds. But after a White House meeting with European economic leaders Nov. 28, President Obama talked about “The fundamental bonds that exist between the European Union and the United States. … I communicated to them that the United States stands ready to do our part to help them resolve” the Eurozone debt crisis; “We’ve got a stake in their success.”

Not exactly an assurance to taxpayers that we can stand clear of any European bank crisis. Not exactly the avoidance of “permanent alliances” recommended in George Washington’s farewell address. Governments everywhere must tighten their belts; stop borrowing; live within their means. Consumers — even tourists — still wait for actions to match the rhetoric.

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