Sunday, May 29, 2011

Always Surprised-?

The headline says "Pro-Obama media always shocked by bad economic news"

The article then goes on to explain, expand and support the headline. What it also explains is who is surprised and why.

Michael Barone (author of article) is very good with numbers. He is too much a gentleman(?) or has too much to lose by saying what most of us would say...

"We're being lied to." Like children who will be frightened if we know the truth.

Unemployment figures are -only- the numbers of people drawing unemployment checks. It does not include the numbers of people who have exhausted they benefits, who never had them (contractors, consultants, sole proprietors, etc) or those who have given up looking. Some wise people estimate that the true number of those without a job and who wish they had one is double the official figures. Why not simply count the numbers reporting income pre-depression and subtract the numbers of people reporting today-? They do not include everyone who has graduated from college, high school, graduate school or released from active military service... -Why-? These are surely people who are unemployed... But they are ignored in official numbers.

Inflation numbers are rigged. They do not include the cost of food or transportation. The most obtuse and dense shopper knows th food prices are going up and not coming down. Food makers are doing two things to hide the fact. Some use smaller packaging. Some use "bonus" extra sizing and some are doing both... The fact is that food prices are up. Gasoline and diesel costs more. That means it costs more to get to/from work, go shopping, go on vacation, go anywhere. It also means that the average family is spending $168 dollars per month more on fuel. Higher prices dry-up demand for consumer impulse and non-essential products.

Companies, big and small, are sitting on their cash. The WSJ's Intelligent Investor column on Saturday ran an article asking "What Will It Take for Companies to Unlock Their Cash Hoards? "

He says "There is a cash crisis in corporate America—although it comes not from a shortage of the stuff, but from a surplus.

In the first quarter, the five companies with the greatest cash hoards—Micr, Cisco Systems, Google, Apple and Johnson & Johnson—added $15 billion in cash and marketable securities to their balance sheets. Microsoft alone packed away roughly $9 billion, or $100 million a day. All told, the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index are sitting on more than $960 billion in cash, a record.

To be sure, at many companies the cash piling up is at global operations that generate "undistributed foreign earnings" that can't be brought home, under U.S. law, without incurring taxes of up to 35%. But hundreds of billions in cash remain available—and idle.

What the author fails to report/recognize is that 1) Bank lending criteria has changed. 2) SEC regulations have changed 3) The affects of Obama Regulations and legal judgements are unknown 4) If the cash is paid out and a disaster or opportunity arises, the company will have a hard time replacing it. Even re-tooling to remain compliant and up-to-date will require cash, from where will it come-?

The biggest culprit is the affect of unknown/unknowable regulations. The new financial act creates new agencies that write new regulations. It creates a czar who cannot be fired by the President. Who Congress cannot control and cannot even de-fund. Who is unaccountable to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. And finally, who can tap the public Treasury for unlimited funds at any time, for any reason. Sarbanes-Oxley has killed the IPO market without touching -any- of the ills that led Congress to act. The new financial act will do nothing to regulate or control the root cause of this depression. FASB is still thinking of another mark-to-market rule. Fannie and Freddie are still alive and draining the Treasury of unknown future amounts. They are also still not being addressed as the problems they are. The fools who created them, ran the and enjoyed the perks/benefits of their irresponsible behavior have not been chastised or punished. Probably never will either. Crimes and moral turpitude at high levels and among the political class are never punished...

As a small/mid-sized businessman, -at this moment-. I am glad I have no employees, no business involvement, no exposure to the unknowns and the scary knowns, implied or implicit, or possible future unknowns... I have no payroll or employees for the first time in 40 years. It is a strange feeling. I never planned to retire this way. I don't like it. Being idle is uncomfortable.

I keep looking for opportunities. I see some. However, before -anyone- makes a commitment to invest time, money or reputation; they want to see a reasonable chance of success 3-5-10 years down the road. At this moment, I cannot see any opportunities that justify risk. The future is frightening. As entrepreneurs and managers our jobs are -not- to run away from risk. We must mitigate risk vs reward and choose the path(s) that best provide a shot at producing a return that justifies the expense. Breaking even/staying alive is good, but it's not enough.

The future will change. How an in what direction is unknown, by me, at this time. I cannot make a reasonable forecast and discuss it with others... Are the changes permanent-?

What affect will regulations have on the cost of supplies, transportation, funding, employees, taxes-? If I know the costs, I can compute the necessary price. Is the public ready to pay -that- amount so that my products/services will provide the return I need to repay lenders, trade creditors, investors for what they have put at risk-? will my competitors allow the price in their marketplace-? How will they respond-? Yes, unlike the governments, colleges, NGO's and other parasites; private enterprise has competition. We must serve the customer a good value for a fair price. We do not re-distribute the profits from the efforts of others. I am a bit blinded by the current economic mess.

I am open to suggestions.

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