The finest economic minds and the most telegenic financial pundits are all asking the same thing. Why has the recovery been so sluggish? The Fed has been throwing everything at it yet unemployment is still stubbornly high and enthusiasm perplexingly low.
The usual suspects have been rounded up, questioned and released. Pick your culprit; Obama, Boehner, Congress, Obamacare, taxes or maybe global warming. I’ve heard them all and many more, as have you.
There is a palatable feeling of despair among individual investors and business owners. Well maybe despair is too hard a word. The feeling I see is better described as “I don’t care.” That is what I hear more and more each day. I don’t care.
We’ve heard an awful lot about the one percent and a whole lot less about the ninety nine percent lately, but precious little about the forty-one percent. Never heard of it, this forty-one percent? It’s likely you haven’t since I just made it up, so I will explain.
Recently, I ran through the news bullet points on the front page of the Wall Street Journal like every morning. It was a normal day; no stock market crashed no war erupted. On this typical news day, what was striking was of the seventeen news bullets seven were about some sort of accusation of wrong doing in the business world. Forty-one percent. GM hiding facts, J.P. Morgan paying fines, insider trading, etc. Unfortunately, this was not an unusual day. Now before you all get lawyered up about this, I know that nothing is proven and these stories could all be proven false. That fact is irrelevant to the reader. It is out there. The stories have been seen and digested by thousands. We’ve gone from a scandal now and then to multiple stories of questionable dealings every day.
After reading this new list of usual suspects I asked myself the same question that many readers that morning asked. “I wonder what’s on SportsCenter?” I put the paper down and caught up on last night’s sports before leaving for work. I will admit that the Journal was stuffed in my bag, and I grudgingly read through it on the train out of a sense of obligation, but I suspect that less and less readers each morning follow suit.
As a financial professional, I’m tired of cringing. I’m tired of reading about transactions that are vaguely legal yet clearly immoral. I’m just damned tired.
As a non-telegenic pundit, I’ll submit my idea on how to improve to the keyboard. I have a request, not of the usual suspects but of the masters of the universe. Just tighten it up.
I’ve been around awhile as have most of you readers. We realize that there will always be scandals and crimes of high and low virtue, but I don’t think it is too much to ask for one scandal a day, then maybe one a week. Let’s stop there. One a week will do for now. Cut the forty-one percent to ten percent.
If you question the effect of all of these scandals and the level of ennui among the public, check the ratings of ESPN compared to CNBC. They’re going in opposite directions, and have been for years.
So tighten it up guys. Keep your people in line. Do the right thing. The economy and your particular business will be better for it.