Economic wishes for 2011

Models hold inflatable numbers as they pose for photos during a New Year party in Hong Kong.

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Tess Vigeland: Happy New Year, everyone! May your piggybanks be overflowing, your savings interest rates rise, and may all your debt magically disappear. If only!

But what really will happen? We asked Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman to survey the land -- or at least Marketplace Money land -- to find out what 2011 might look like if all the stars line up. If we get really really lucky. If pigs fly. Which, you never know...


Mitchell Hartman: What is the beginning of a New Year for but to dream about things to come? Or things you wish would come? With that in mind, I set out -- magic wand in hand -- to find out what some Marketplace regulars would like to see in 2011.

Gail Cunningham: My name is Gail Cunningham for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Cunningham helps people work their way out of debt.

Cunningham: I do need to wave that wand and it would be over the job market. Because consumers cannot begin to have financial stability until they have a steady paycheck coming in, and they can't make that mortgage payment without that paycheck coming in.

Former U.S. Labor Secretary and Berkeley professor Robert Reich also dreams of more jobs.

Robert Reich: Well, my hope is the economy creates millions of jobs, in fact so many new jobs that unemployment falls to 5 percent, the median wage rises 10 percent, housing prices start moving up again, the overall recovery is buoyant!

Felix Salmon blogs for Reuters. His New Year's dream could pay for Reich's buoyant expansion -- well, maybe. It's kind of technical.

Felix Salmon: I would conjure up an abolition of the tax-deductibility of interest for corporates, which sounds incredibly wonky and marginal, but you raise hundreds of billions of dollars which we desperately need in order to balance the budget. Companies have this huge incentive to pay very little in dividends and to load up on very expensive debt and it makes the entire economy very fragile.

Salmon's greedy, at least on behalf of the U.S. Treasury. He'd also like to see the tax deduction on mortgage interest sent to the dustbin, then add taxes on carbon and financial deals. Bah humbug?

Salmon: I love getting lumps of coal in the mail. It makes me happy.

And then there's the dream that we'll all change our wicked spending ways, even after the recession's long gone.

Knight Kiplinger: I'm Knight Kiplinger, editor-in-chief of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. My prediction is that Americans will start seriously saving more of what they earn. This is not good news for American retailers -- they want us to go out and patriotically overspend as was our habit back in the bad old days.

New York Times columnist Ron Lieber would wave a wand at the skyrocketing cost of sending a kid to college.

Ron Lieber: What the wand does is that it forces the schools, say NYU for instance, to say, 'You know what, after $50,000 or $60,000 dollars in debt, you're going to have to go take a year off to work, because we don't think it's responsible to push you out into the world with six figures of debt at the age of 22.'

Marketplace health care reporter Gregory Warner is conjuring a market-based solution to America's soaring health debt.

Gregory Warner: So imagine the Sciatica Fund, this is a wonderful vehicle essentially buying a slice of all the debt Americans will incur dealing with back pain. A very sizeable pool. Or, Arthritis Arbitrage Bonds, triple-A rated since no one's inventing a cure for that one.

Marketplace's Stacey Vanek Smith covers media. She's dreaming of a whole new reality on TV.

Stacey Vanek Smith: It would profile a normal functional family. There would be no weird hot tub, Springer-style attacks. The ratings would be huge because everyone would be so excited and fascinated to watch, like, family game night, and their kids' school play, and everybody goes to their jobs and tries to support each other.

Steve Henn at Marketplace's Technology Desk has been looking around his office at all the screens and apps and gadgets that have taken over his life. He's waving his wand, well, everywhere.

Steve Henn: Everything in my wallet sucked into my smartphone and for that smartphone to get really, really smart. Pay all my bills on time for me, let me know if I was spending too much money, and make sure I didn't bounce checks.

Hartman: So you want, sort of, artificial intelligence that is actually a person with intelligence.

Henn: I think I want the old-fashioned phone back. I want Mabel.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace Money.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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