Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 2002 / 7 Kislev, 5763

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Consumer Reports

Bush's lucky week bodes well for recovery | George W. Bush just had the sort of week most presidents can only dream about.

Not only did the Republican Party make history Tuesday by regaining control of the Senate and holding onto the House, but the president's brother Jeb made a little history of his own by becoming the first Republican governor in Florida's history to win re-election - and by a landslide.

The U.N. Security Council gave the president exactly what he wanted, unanimously approving the resolution to disarm Iraq. The president's oft-criticized chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Harvey Pitt, chose to resign on election night, assuring a hardly noticeable placement of the story in newspapers and broadcasts nationwide. And the Fed chose this week to cut interest rates to 1.25 percent, the lowest level in 41 years.

By any definition it was one heck of a week. A president's luck just doesn't get any better, and I believe America's economic and political fortunes may rise as a result. We may have turned an important corner.

The 107th "Do Not Much" Congress is coming back for a lame-duck session, and Bush has put the legislative focus squarely on homeland defense and economic security. What happens now?

These midterm elections were hardly a sweep and hardly the stuff of a mandate. And the president has showed the good grace not to use the "M" word. The political gurus have treated us to post-election analysis about a split midterm vote, which, with several races still undecided, gives the Republicans a one- or two-seat majority in the Senate and a nine- or 10-seat advantage in the House.

In fact, the elections simply restored to the Republicans what Sen. Jim Jeffords took away from them when he defected in June of last year. Nearly every pundit and political strategist views the results of the midterm elections as further evidence of a national divide.

I don't see a split or a divide simply because of the narrow majorities by the Republicans in the House and Senate. Rather, I see what looks like real balance. We couldn't ask for a much narrower margin between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, nor a broader representation of the moderate center of voters in this country. That's balance, not division, and it will help, not hamper the national legislative agenda.

Greg Valliere, political economist and chief strategist with the Charles Schwab Washington Research Group, sees legislative progress in the air: "I think that the seeds of a compromise are in place that would give the Democrats extension of unemployment benefits and maybe even an increase in minimum wage in exchange for some things that the Republicans want, making the tax cut permanent and maybe even passing a package of tax incentives for investors."

Thanks to the past five weeks, investors now need less of a boost. President Bush got his October surprise. The stock market rose in the weeks leading up to the elections and, in fact, the Nasdaq is now up 13 percent.

Of course, the Nasdaq is still off 73 percent from its March 2000 high, and the Dow is down 27 percent. And investor confidence is at the lowest level in eight years. Most of that is due to the staggering $8 trillion investors have lost since 2000.

But much of it is the result of a lack of faith in the integrity of the securities markets and Corporate America. And the president understands that Harvey Pitt's replacement at the SEC will be critically important to solidifying the market's recovery by restoring integrity to Corporate America and Wall Street.

I hope the president makes the process of choosing a new SEC chairman a bipartisan effort. By doing so, he could only add momentum to his legislative initiatives, both political and economic, and lead us around that very important corner.

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Lou Dobbs is the anchor and managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs Moneyline." Comment by clicking here.

11/05/02: Wall Street firms treat investors as fools
10/29/02: Earnings estimates offer some hope
10/22/02: Economy's strength tied to national security
10/17/02: Harvey Pitt, get real!
10/08/02:Are we experiencing the fall before the rise?
10/01/02: Concerns about earnings are justified
09/24/02: Business leaders must abandon stall tactics
09/17/02: Wall Street's reality check
09/12/02: There's no better time for leaders to show resolve


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