Editor’s Note: The recovery on the horizon seems a little farther away this week

November 13, 2011

There was a lively debate on the radio the other day about why companies are not hiring. The back and forth was pretty predictable, argued mostly along ideological lines.

The budget is a mess, taxes are too high and regulations are too burdensome, complained one businessman.

We need the government to be more active, went another. More stimulus, more oversight of Wall Street and more taxes will set the economy on the right path.

Mostly they just yelled at each other.

I’m guessing the rhetoric will only grow more heated as we near the deadline for a plan from Congress’s debt-reduction supercommittee.

Until there’s some resolution — and we ultimately may have to wait for the outcome of the 2012 presidential election — we are bumping along, dogged by economic uncertainly here and around the world.

The retailer Target pulls the plug on plans for a new store in Northeast. Filene’s Basement and its parent file for bankruptcy. A Tysons Corner developer withdraws plans for high-rise apartments. A Rosslyn office builder continues to hunt for construction funding.

I can’t tell you when the good times will return. I can tell you, after spending the past few weeks poring over the earnings reports of the region’s largest public companies, that corporate financials are not as bad as the headlines might lead you to believe. Still, a sense of caution hangs in the air.

Manufacturing giant Danaher talked about the need to restructure given the broader economic climate and the language software company Rosetta Stone trimmed forecasts for future sales. Others just pleaded they lacked “visibility” in what might come next.

A lot depends on big external forces beyond the control of most companies. Business is a confidence game, and right now that’s a quality in short supply. No sooner did we start to think Europe had a plan for Greece, then Italy pops up on the financial radar screen.

And each week, our time horizon for a real recovery seems to get pushed out a little farther.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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