March 30, 2009

"Reset" - The new buzzword to describe the current U.S. economy

I talked about 2008 being the year of Great Disruption in my March 8th blog post, referencing Tom Friedman (NYT) and Paul Gilding

I argued that this Disruption is not merely a down phase of an economy's usual up-and-down cycles, but rather represents a reset to new sustainable paradigms on several fronts. "Reset" is apparently becoming the new buzzword to define the current climate of American economy. It's on the cover of the Time magazine's latest issue of April 6th.

Here are a few excerpts from the Time's cover story that lists excesses in America during the quarter century period starting early 1980s and leading up to the current global financial meltdown:
From 1980 to 2007, the median price of a new American home quadrupled.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed from 803 in the summer of 1982 to 14,165 in the fall of 2007.

From the beginning of the '80s through 2007, the share of disposable income that each household spent servicing its mortgage and consumer debt increased 35%.

Average household savings decreased from 11% of its disposable income in 1982 to less than 1% in 2007.

...until the late '80s, only Nevada and New Jersey had casinos, but now 12 states do, and 48 have some form of legalized betting.

From the beginning to the end of the long boom, the size of the average new house increased by about half.

During the boom years, the average American gained about a pound a year, so that an adult of a given age is now at least 20 lb. heavier than someone the same age back then. In the late '70s, 15% of Americans were obese; now a third are.

We knew, in our heart of hearts, that something had to one wanted to be a buzz kill.

Yes, none of the commercial news outlets wanted to kill the buzz.

National Public Radio (NPR), the listener supported public radio in America, by far my favorite news source, ran a full hour program on this topic on May 9th, 2008, four months before the crisis surfaced on the mainstream news. "The Giant Pool of Money," an hour-long episode of This American Life (TAL), a production of Chicago Public Radio, in collaboration with NPR news, provided one of the most insightful investigative anatomy of the sub-prime mortgage mess in a vivid and humorous narrative easily understood by common man. I'd strongly encourage readers to listen to the May 9th TAL podcast.

NPR business reporter Adam Davidson, who co-created the above podcast, claimed in a recent Fast Company article that the financial crisis story demanded public-radio-style journalism. "I don't think this is a good story for newspapers, to be honest with you. Because it's an emotional story, it's a shocking story. We're used to all the people who formed the architecture of our economic infrastructure having the voice of God -- like Alan Greenspan. They're the experts and they understand the world and they're going to explain it. And business journalists had that tone too. We're now in a world where anybody who tells you they know exactly what's going on, you can just dismiss them as a liar."

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