Tag Archive for 'economy'

Poll Results: What grade would you give President Obama?

The Question:
From the standpoint of the impact on your business, what grade would you give President Obama for his time in office?

5% - A
6% - B
6% - C
9% - D
74% - F

Jim’s Comments:
As you can see, President Obama is a failure to three-fourths of our small business audience. It’s been clear from day one that the president has been ambivalent to the Main Street economy atbest, and against us at worst. In seven years in office, the only policy he’s proposed that looks anything like pro-business is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal he cut last year.

On the other side of the coin, the anti-business stuff is a long list, which I’m going to innumerate in an article in the near future. Stay tuned. Thanks for participating.

And thanks for your abiding support of our poll each week. Check out our new one on how you would vote today, click here.

To listen to more about these poll results, click on the link below.

Small business owners have give Obama a grade

Is 2016 trending as the year of our next recession?

One of the distinct markers of the United States is what has been termed our “consumer economy.”

It’s pretty intuitive.

Having a consumer economy means that the main driver of GDP (gross domestic product), and therefore, the engine of economic growth, comes from spending by consumers. Other major elements that make up the entire U.S. economy include private investment, government spending and trade.

America is not unique in this distinction, but no other major economy in the world compares to the U.S. in this definition. For example, American consumers represented 71% of GDP in 2013, having risen from 62% in 1960. Around the globe, Japanese consumers are 61% of their economy, with only 36% in China. And in the major European countries, consumers average less than 60% of GDP.

The U.S. has experienced an increasingly robust consumer economy for generations. But one of the implications that has arisen for, let’s say, the past half century is that consumers are more likely to spend their money than save it. There are many reasons for this imbalance: America is the strongest economy in the world; has a diverse credit industry with creative products; and produces and imports a lot of cool stuff, which Americans want even if they have to borrow, instead of save, to get it.

The world economy has long benefited from the exuberance, rational or not, of the U.S. consumer. Indeed, during the global slowdown of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the U.S. consumer almost single-handedly kept the global economy from collapsing. But today, with a declining global economic scenario, will American consumers reprise their earlier role as economic champion? A new data point may provide that answer.

Recently, in our online poll, we asked small business owners if the significant drop in gasoline prices ($1/gallon in six months) was manifesting as increased spending by their customers. Less than one-fourth of our respondents reported such a trend was evident or slightly evident, while almost half said they saw no such evidence.

One of the reasons for the consistent moribund U.S. economy since 2008 has been the debt-reducing behavior of both American businesses and consumers. But it now seems the consumer’s cash conservatism continues unabated because, in addition to our poll results, other surveys indicate people are using the gas price dividend to reduce debt and save.

During the first quarters of 2014 and 2015 the U.S. economy went negative, producing one half of a technical recession, while the Dow Jones Index rose to new record highs. But 2016 has begun with stock indexes retrenching toward bear territory, a decline in both imports and exports, and no apparent help from consumers. Consequently, a negative Q1 this year may prove to be just the first one, rather than a one-off like the past two years.

Write this on a rock … The best way to not participate in a recession is to be prepared for one.

POLL RESULTS: As a citizen and business owner, what do you see as the greatest threat to you and yours right now?

The Question:

As a citizen and business owner, what do you see as the greatest threat to you and yours right now?

18%The poor condition of the economy
7% - Climate change
18% - Expansion of radical Islamic terrorism
2% - Not enough gun control
56% - Over-taxed and over-regulated by the government

Jim’s Comments:
The economy sucks for many Main Street businesses, and terrorism’s on everyone’s minds. But when we asked small business owners what was the greatest threat to them and theirs, those two issues only garnered about one-fifth of our responses each. As you can see, almost six of ten believe their greatest threat is encroachment of the government.
Think about that. The thing that most small business owners lay awake at night worrying about is how their government will hurt them. What’s wrong with this picture? #GODHELPUS
Thanks for playing along. Please participate in this week’s poll below.
http://survey.constantcontact.com/poll/a07ebz4037kii24k7ss/start.html

Results of Blasingame’s 2015 Predictions and His Score

Here are my 2015 predictions and what happened. My prior 14-year record is 73% accuracy.

Prediction: Geopolitics, geo-competition and the supply/demand dynamic for crude oil won’t find equilibrium anytime soon, causing prices to fluctuate, but average less than $70 per barrel. Plus 1 - Crude averaged around $50 per barrel for the year

Prediction: With consumers buoyed by low gas prices and six years of recovery fatigue, the U.S. economy will grow, but global economic headwinds and currency influences on exports will result in U.S. annual GDP averaging below 3%. Plus 1 – Owing to a disastrous Q1, annual GDP is closer to 2%.

Prediction: Consumer optimism will produce small business contribution to GDP greater than any year since the Great Recession. Minus 1 – Incredibly, in the sixth post-recession year, consumers, the small business sector and economy are all going in the wrong direction.

Prediction: An improving economy, plus anticipation of a business-friendly 114th Congress will cause an upward trend in small business optimism toward NFIB Index’s 42-year average of 100 points. Minus 1 – NFIB Index reports trend was no better than flat.

Prediction: Small business loan demand will increase as growth opportunities exceed the ability to fund them with organic capital resources. Plus 1 – The increase came mostly from non-traditional sources, like asset-based lenders.

Prediction: With organizational productivity maxed out, even marginal economic growth will cause small and large businesses to increase hiring. Plus 1 – Hiring did increase. But exposing the irrelevance of U3, not enough to drop true unemployment to 5%.

Prediction: Continued concern about the fragility of the U.S. and global economies will cause the Fed to maintain monetary easing by keeping the Fed Funds rate unchanged. Plus 1 – I took a lot of heat on this from every economist I know – most predicted a June rate increase.

Prediction: In King v Burwell, Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that Obamacare was written to exclude subsidies to states with Federal exchanges. Minus 1 – In the Bizarro World of the Roberts’ Court a 6-3 majority contrived that “only” really means “every.”

Prediction: The GOP-controlled Congress and President Obama will agree on tax reform in 2015.  Plus 1 – Nothing sweeping, but year-end reforms will help small business.

Prediction: Congressional Republicans will thwart the execution of Obama’s executive order on immigration. Plus 1 – This happened, with help from the Courts.

Prediction: The Sony cyber-assault by North Korea will elevate corporate America cyber-security to a de facto national security level. Plus 1 – Corporate cyber-security spending increased by 20%.

Prediction: Unprecedented foreign state cyber-assault on a U.S. corporation will cause the government to stop companies from responding to such threats on their own. Plus 1 – These conversations did happen.

Prediction: In political theater redux, a Clinton and a Bush will become presidential candidates, but neither will be their party’s front-runners by year-end. Push – Got Bush, missed Clinton. Surprised Bush hasn’t done better and Clinton’s baggage hasn’t hurt her.

Prediction: Oregon will defeat Florida State in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Plus 1 – A 59-20 whuppin’.

Prediction: Alabama will win the inaugural NCAA Division I Championship Game Jan10. Minus 1 – My first ever football miss.

Write this on a rock …This year I went 11 for 16, or 69%, taking my 15-year record to 72.7%. How’d you do?

Four factors that stopped the American startup

As the financial crisis was being resolved in December 2008 I heard someone say, “Wait ’til the startups get going – they’ll end this recession and crank up the economy again.” Of course, this maxim had caught on previously because when you start a business, you create at least one job.

But as I thought about how that entrepreneurial expectation had been true in past recoveries, I considered the environment we were entering and concluded that this recovery was going to be different. Indeed, in my 2009 predictions I reckoned that there were going to be fewer startups in this recovery cycle than ever before based on two conditions I saw coming. Unfortunately, things got even worse due to two factors I didn’t forecast.

Typically, the founding of most Main Street startups are funded initially with access to the personal credit and home equity of the founders. I saw problems coming for both of these sources because:

1.   One morning in February 2008 – months before the financial crisis but with storm clouds on the horizon – millions of credit card holders woke up to discover their card issuers had withdrawn any available credit they had the day before.

2.   Then, over the next year, the bursting of the real estate/mortgage bubble – the prime cause of the 2008 financial crisis – resulted in wiping out or significantly reducing the home equity of millions of U.S. households.

The two factors I did not forecast are:

3.  The youngest – and largest – of marketplace participant groups, Gen Y and Gen X, age 20-44, apparently are not as entrepreneurial as their Baby Boomer parents were at that age. According to the Kauffman Foundation, since 2009 startup activity for those two demographics has been declining.

4.  In my half-century career, and my study of the history of the American marketplace, prospective founders of new businesses have never been subjected to the level of anti-business rhetoric and policies from the federal government as they have in the past seven years.

One of the seminal findings of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a direct connection between a country’s entrepreneurial vitality and its economic growth. The Great Recession ended in June 2009. But the subsequent U.S. recovery, now well into its sixth year of moribund performance (2% annual average GDP growth), has been stuck in a kind of circular reference: expansion-creating startups aren’t happening because of the four entrepreneurship-repressing factors.

Write this on a rock …Real economic expansion – more than 3% growth – will require a return to favorable entrepreneurial conditions lost since 2008.

Next week my column will reveal counter-intuitive ways the lack of startups since 2008 have been positive.

A consumption tax is bad for America and worse for America’s small businesses

If not already, you’ll soon hear about two consumption tax alternatives to accomplish tax reform: a value-added tax (VAT), and the “Fair Tax,” which is a national sales tax.
VAT is added to products incrementally in the steps of the production/distribution process and passed to consumers in the ultimate price. The oxymoronic Fair Tax is collected from the end user at the point of sale, like state and local sales taxes. Both are bad ideas.
As major tax reform has been lately debated, in addition to tinkering with the current system or replacing it with a flat tax, politicians on both sides of the aisle have proposed consumption tax options. And they will be part of the 2016 presidential campaign debates.
SmallBusinessEconomyFiscally, the attraction of a consumption tax is that, in the largest consumer economy on the planet, it would raise a lot of tax revenue. Politically a consumption tax raises revenue on the rich more appropriately and, even though it’s regressive for the poor, they would receive some kind of a federal rebate or credit.

Consider these reasons why either consumption tax is a bad idea:

  • We know that the big spending party is the one in the majority. So without imposing strict fiscal discipline - like a balanced budget amendment - a consumption tax will give politicians more money without solving budget deficits or national debt challenges.
  • Most European countries have collected consumption taxes for years, and yet they continue to have significant economic/fiscal challenges.
  • European consumption taxes are on top of all other taxes, including income tax.
  • All European consumption tax percentages started small, but today the average is 19% - again, in addition to income tax.

A consumption tax would also hurt small businesses disproportionately. Big businesses have systems in place to deal with new government compliance, like tax collection, and they ALWAYS pass along expense increases to customers. Small businesses will be harmed because:

  • We aren’t always able to pass along cost increases, even a mandated VAT.
  • New tax compliance and remittance will be prohibitively expensive.
  • The sticker price of a national sales tax will take time for consumers to adjust to, which will hurt small businesses more.

The only way we should consider any kind of a consumption tax is if it completely replaces the federal income tax, which would require repealing the 16th Amendment. Good luck with that because in the 227 years since the Constitution was ratified, only one amendment has ever been repealed - and that was to end prohibition.

Write this on a rock … A consumption tax is a bad idea, especially for America’s small businesses.




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