Might ‘experts’ be wrong again? Are we heading towards dreaded ‘double-dip’?
If there is a go-to-guy for making sense of the country’s wretched economy, it has been former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. A year ago, he maintained the Obama stimulus plan was not large enough when others said the opposite and he is now one of a small cadre of contrarians saying the economy is headed towards an extended downturn.

“Why are we having such a hard time getting free of the Great Recession?” Reich wrote earlier this month. “Because consumers, who constitute 70 percent of the economy, don’t have the dough.” In turn, he also says, employers are cautious to create new jobs.

In Alameda County, the number of unemployed still hovers above the national average, at 11 percent, but another double-digit number may loom large in San Leandro this fall.

The city is likely to propose a quarter-percent sales tax increase on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the sales tax in San Leandro would rise to 10 percent–one of the highest in the state. The recent fiscal budget passed June 7 did not include the possibility of new tax dollars, but the presentation given to the council highlighted partially funded public safety items that could face elimination for the last half of the year if the measure does not pass.

Mayor Tony Santos and opponent Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak have indicated support for the sales tax measure, while Stephen Cassidy has has questioned whether the regressive tax would force shoppers to locales other than San Leandro.

Aside from that, much of the budget estimate provided by the finance department include somewhat rosy assumptions regarding even conservative views of the state and national economy, which, according, to Reich, may not be a minimal and slow recovery, but yet another downturn–a so-called “double-dip.” News reports this week say economists and banker believe a double-dip is “very unlikely,” but both occupations have shown their foresight to be dubious over the past few years and may amount to nothing more than wishful-thinking.

If Reich is correct about the economy in the next year, how will San Leandro justify increasing its sales tax at a time when its predominately middle-class is struggling to scrounge up money for much more than necessities? Increases in sales tax typically bite those with less money to begin with, so why enact revenue enhancements during a time of a stagnant economic atmosphere when the partial increase in receipts will not appear on the city’s ledgers until next spring, at the earliest? It’s just another reason why the economy will be the city’s top election issue and capable of upending  its leaders and direction.

-STEVEN TAVARES