Thursday, May 26, 2011
Whirlwind Tour of the Forces shaping the World in which we Live.!!
We are all affected by socio-economic trends in our careers and personal lives. At the recent annual meeting in Savannah, GA, of the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), a group composed of major U.S. manufacturers of industrial safety products, economist Brian Beaulieu presented a 2.5-hour whirlwind tour of the forces shaping the world in which we live.
Beaulieu's views have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Barron's, Reuters and Forbes, among other outlets. He is chief economist for Vistage International, a global organization comprised of 14,000+ CEOs. He and his twin brother Alan currently have a show, "Make Your Move," on Voice America Business Channel.
The summary of highlights that follows does not specifically focus on workplace safety. But in Beaulieu's big picture blend of research-based facts and trends, plus predictions and opinions, you will see forces affecting professional health and safety careers, as well as current and emerging issues in the profession.
You won't agree with every opinion and prediction here - the old saying, "You can put economist end-to-end around the world and they'll never reach an agreement" - but Beaulieu's breadth of trends reporting is worth considering.
Predictions and Recommendations
1 - Buy agriculture commodity stocks.
2 - Our earth has a billion more people to feed.
3 - Be prepared for weather disruptions in the next 10-15 years worse than anything in the past 20 years.
4 - Long-term: look for a Great Depression between 2030-2040. You'll likely be on the sidelines, but your kids...
5 - Short-term: Not another recession until 2013-14, and it won't be nearly as bad as the last one.
6 - President Obama will be re-elected in 2012, due to good, positive economic conditions and weak GOP opposition.
7 - Japan's industrial production is dying.
8 - Who's afraid of China? The U.S. out-manufactures China on an everyday basis. Outsourced manufacturing is returning to the U.S. Strengthening the U.S. manufacturing base is a question of will, not ability.
9 - Pay no mind to Chinese economic data. No one does. It has no credibility.
10 - China faces a looming demographic crisis. China and the U.S. have roughly the same land mass. But China has four times the population of the U.S. China will not overtake the U.S. as the world's number one economic power. It lacks mineral wealth. China will be a consistent number two. We should stop looking over our shoulder for China coming up from behind. It ain't going to happen.
11 - Waiting on India: Conditions are ripe for India to become a stronger world economic power. Infrastructure is the number one problem facing the country. India has been poised to break out for 20 years.
12 - A lack of mobility exists in the U.S. workforce. There are 13 million unemployed, with three million job openings that can't be filled. People cannot up and move to where the jobs are due in part to the lousy housing market. They can't sell their homes.
13 - Mining is and will be one of the U.S. economy's stronger sectors.
14 - U.S. manufacturing produces only moderate job increases. A lack of skilled workers exists. Also, there exists a preference to employ machines over people.
15 - Unemployment will remain high. In 2014, look for the unemployment rate to be at 7.4 percent. Barriers to lowering unemployment: lack of workforce mobility; lack of workforce skills; the U.S. government has incentivized people not to work. It pays people not to work.
16 - Federal budget cuts will not be draconian. Any cut is met with the question: What is this going to do to jobs? Cuts hurt jobs. Politicians need to stay in office. They will not inflict severe budget cuts.
17 - Both Democrat and GOP deficit reduction plans are based on the assumption that the U.S. economy will grow at a 5.0 percent clip from 2010-2019. Since World War 2, average Gross Domestic Policy (GDP) has been 3.3 percent. Current deficit reduction plans on both sides of the aisle ain't gonna happen.
18 - Current U.S. federal government spending outlays: #1 Social Security; #2 Non-discretionary spending; #3 Defense; #4 Medicare; #5 Net interest; #6 All other entitlements; #7 Medicaid; #8 Obamacare subsidies; #9 Iraq and Afghanistan.
19 - Healthcare in the scheme of overall federal spending is not a big number.
20 - 80 percent of healthcare costs are incurred in the last two years of life.
21 - The definition of "fair" in U.S. healthcare spending is not equal opportunity but equal outcomes.
22 - It's not about politics, about Dems or the GOP. The biggest factor influencing economic policy today is the times we live in.
23 - There is no credit crunch in 2011. Cash is sloshing all around. Main Street bankers (not Wall Street) want to loan money, but regulators sitting in their lobby restrain them. Need a loan? Be persistent. Ask 21 times for a loan. Shop around. The average is to ask for a loan only four times, and then give up.
24 - Corporate balance sheets look good. They are very clean.
25 - An economically realistic price for a barrel of oil is $97. The price could reach $140-$150 in 2013. Any price north of $130 will make consumer consumption difficult. At that price point consumers must make choices about how to consume oil.
26 - Natural gas is the best bet for U.S. energy independence. Natural gas = electricity generation. If one-third of the U.S. population drove hybrid autos or diesel-powered vehicles, we wouldn't need Saudi oil. We wouldn't need the Middle East. Energy independence is within our grasp. But independence comes at a premium price most of us cannot afford.
27 - Look outside of the U.S. for your stock choices. Foreign firms or global U.S. firms with more than 50 percent of their revenue coming from sales outside of the U.S. Bonds will be going down in value.
28 - It will be an inflationary world in the next 20 years. Winners will be those countries wealthy in natural resources. Canada and Brazil, for instance. Australia and New Zealand.
29 - The U.S. economy is currently running on six of eight cylinders. Residential and non-residential construction is still down and out. But the recovery is better than the last one in 2004. Businesses are investing. The restaurant business is coming back. Hotel, motels and lodging business is rebounding. Consumers are spending again.
30 - Invest in eye care and bladder care healthcare companies. Demographics favor these kinds of healthcare businesses.
31 - We possess three-year memories. After a three-year period we tend to forget experiences. The Great Recession ended in 2009. By mid-2012 it will be out of mind. It will no longer be a behavioral determinant.
32 - Invest in residential real estate. New housing starts are as dead as a doornail. Existing homes and apartments are where 130 million new Americans by 2050 will live.
33 - Population winners and losers at the state level: Biggest gains - Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, and Florida; Biggest losses - Michigan, New York, Ohio, Idaho, and New Jersey.
34 - The low-cost global labor pool will move to Africa from Asia.
35 - Pot shops are making a comeback, have you noticed? So, too, record album turntables and long-playing (LP) vinyl records. Life, like the economy and the seasons, is cyclical, not a non-stop linear progression. Currently, Baby Boomers are nostalgic for the 1960s, and their kids are curious about the decade's zeitgeist.