Sept Insights

 Some recent insights of interest.  

“A Trillion Here, A Trillion There”
The late Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen is reputed to have characterized the “Great Society” fiscal policy of the 1960s with the wry observation that “ A billion here, a billion there….and after a while it adds up to real money.”   Fifty years later we add a few zeros and we’re talking trillions.   Were it just the Federal Government’s climbing debt and ongoing deficits that would be scary enough.   But before the main event of Federal meltdown manifests itself,  the opening act will be the ballooning pension and healthcare obligations of teachers, first responders and other state and local obligations.  Decades ago these employees traded lower current income for a state guaranteed retirement.  Mismanagement of these pension plans has resulted in a funding deficit which, it is estimated, to be approximately $ 4.4 trillion.   
This may be the defining issue of our times as it will affect everyone, either as a retiree or as a younger member of the workforce paying increased taxes to make up the shortfall. An executive summary of the situation in the Knowledge@Wharton newsletter explains the limited and painful options for remedying this situation. None of them are good.  Most involve more taxes, especially on real estate, and cuts in other government services.. Coupled with an aging population that is living longer we have a Time Bomb Inside the Public Pension Plans”    Want to know what your share of the shortfall might be?   Read the article.  It may well be more than you have already put aside.
Plan accordingly.  As Tennessee Williams said,  “You can be young without money, but you can’t be old without it.”
Models Matter
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”  wrote the Russian novelist Tolstoy.   The same seems to be  true for “happy” (successful) businesses.  Regardless of the nature of the product or service offered,  the most successful companies today can be considered “software” companies in that software is an integral part of the offering and its value.  But no competitive advantage last forever.   What comes after being a software company?   This article from the WSJ suggests that it will be “models”;  data driven continuous learning models to be exact.  Find out why, sooner than later, Models Will Run the World.   Find out what a “model” really is…..and this risks of not being one.
The Problem with Prosperity
There are no unmixed blessings; and this long economic expansion not only makes profit possible, but also makes it more difficult to maintain as the competition for resources heats up.  In an INC Magazine article, Vistage Chief Research Officer Joe Galvin offers four tactics to keep high costs from consuming your company’s profits.  



                                        Econ Recon:
 This past week marked the longest bull market in US history and the coming year, absent a recession, marks the longest economic expansion on record.  But nothing lasts forever.   Columnist George Will, best known for this thoughts on politics and baseball, recently warned that “Another Epic Economic Collapse is Coming.”    Dr. Brian Wesbury begs to differ.  While allowing that the business cycle has not been outlawed, he remains an optimist..  
Follow the Money:   Between the prophecy of near term collapse and that of optimism is ITR Economics’ Jackie Green  who sees a mild contraction for many, but not all sectors…and some sectors may see a more precipitous fall than others. See if yours is one of them.  Check out her short article, “Are Your Profits Following the Crowd?”