NOT NEARLY AS BAD AS THE DOOMSTERS PREDICT
For at least fifty years now, so-called futurists, analysts, and economic forecasters have been predicting financial collapse that hasn’t happened–pretty similar to all the predictions wackjobs have been making about the end of the world. Sure we’ve had setbacks, most notably in 2008–but that fiscal maelstrom wasn’t really predicted by the doom and gloom crowd who thought that tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and an unfunded huge prescription drug entitlement combined with rampant deregulation of the private sector was a good way to manage the economy. They got their comeuppance, but are trying to blame the inevitable results on mismanagement by the incoming administration.
At some point, truth will tell. However, with the 24/7 news and information and absurdity cycle we now live in, sometimes it is hard to sort the truth from all the other flotsam and jetsam clogging up the pathways to reality. As part of our own discernment process, I think it may be time to start labeling bursts of news and information as either “good” and “bad” or “relevant” and “insignificant.” One example each from my very personal such list.
GOOD–Obama’s coming out now in support of gay marriage.
BAD–More Americans leaving the workforce and not even looking anymore.
RELEVANT–The loss of up to $5 billion by JP Morgan Chase.
INSIGNIFICANT–The $100 billion valuation by Wall Street of Facebook.
Now, I’m not intending to go into detail about these choices, just to use them as examples of how I decide what to focus on in the limited amount of time and space we each have.
But in terms of our financial future, each of these pieces of news can be viewed in very positive and optimistic ways, whether they seem so or not at first glance. For instance, how bad can the overregulation of the private sector by the government be if JP Morgan Chase has enough capitol to smoothly weather the huge loss caused by bad choices in high risk hedging activities? And how bad can the business environment be if they have this kind of money to play with and this kind of loss they can suffer without collapsing? While the ordinary working American may be dealing with lots of financial challenges right now, this JP Morgan Chase story shows us that corporate America is doing just fine, better than ever in fact–and the Facebook IPO is another strong indication of the strength of the markets in spite of all the negative prophecy rampant in the land.
I think we need to stop using words like “Bad,” “Troubling,” “Failing,” to describe the economy, and use more accurate adjectives such as “Changing,” “Challenging,” “Paradigm Shifting.” For example, it is widely acknowledged that one of the reasons for higher unemployment is that the U.S. in particular has its highest productivity ratios in history. We are producing goods and services at the same level we did in 2007 with 5 million fewer workers. This is the kind of transformation in efficiency that needs to be addressed. It was discussed in futurist Alvin Toffler’s 1970 masterpiece, Future Shock, but few people paid attention. Even today, his analysis and suggested solutions make more sense than most of what is coming out of Washington and the business community.
Here’s something that has always been true in America: When things seem at the worst, there are always people for whom the challenges faced will bring out their best. Maybe we each need to decide if we want to ride on or ahead of the surging wave, or fall back and drown.