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Economist Alfie Meek paints bleak picture

Dr. Alfie Meek, economist at Georgia Tech, tells the Chamber luncheon who owns the U.S. Debt and what it means if the country defaults.


Georgia Tech economist Alfie Meek spoke at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon Thursday.

Georgia Tech economist Alfie Meek spoke at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon Thursday.

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Alfie Meek speaks to the Gwinnett Chamber

Dr. Alfie Meek, economist at Georgia Tech, tells the Chamber luncheon who owns the U.S. Debt and what it means if the country defaults.

Dr. Alfie Meek, economist at Georgia Tech, tells the Chamber luncheon who owns the U.S. Debt and what it means if the country defaults.

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Georgia Tech economist Alfie Meek speaks at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon Thursday, giving a bleak look at the economic picture.

DULUTH — Working as Gwinnett County’s economist during the Great Recession, Alfie Meek earned the nickname “Dr. Doom and Gloom.”

Visiting the county two years after leaving to become Georgia Tech’s director of innovation strategy and impact, Meek did little to dispel the reputation despite a more positive economy.

During Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce general membership luncheon Thursday, Meek shared statistics that showed a statistical recovery from the recession, but little else to be excited about.

He pointed out that while there have been some gains in jobs, numbers show 5 million more jobs in the United States than 2000 but 13 million more people in the workforce. Plus, he noted, the job gains have been in lower wage sectors.

In Gwinnett, the lower wages and increase in people receiving government funding showed that the county’s wealth index — which soared above the national average through the ’80s and ’90s — now matches the national average.

“That’s an issue Gwinnett leaders need to understand and figure out how to deal with,” Meek said, adding that sales tax receipts remain “sluggish,”

With the federal debt close to $17 trillion, Meek pointed out that the Federal Reserve has been buying the debt at little or no interest. He predicted the “quantitative easing,” would never end , because interest payments would equal the entire revenue from income taxes each year.

“At some point, I think they are going to figure this out,” Meek said. “The question is how long the Fed is willing to do this.”

Laurie McClain, a local certified public accountant, said the message was sobbering.

“I think Alfie made it clear that the path we are on is not sustainable,” McClain said. “It’ll take some very bold leadership … to get us out of here.”