The latest Small Business survey from the NFIB contains more signs of the continuing struggles on Main Street. The latest outlook remains near its lows. With this sort of uncertainty it is no surprise that the labor markets remain a complete mess. The commentary from the NFIB nicely summarizes the situation (see below):
“Seventy-three (73) percent of the owners report that the current period is not a good time to expand. Of those, 66 percent cite the weak economy as the main reason, but 18 percent cite the “political climate” as the source of uncertainty. This elevated level of concern has prevailed since January 2008 when Congress began debating the “stimulus” and other possible actions to deal with the economy and the government changed hands. The expiration of the Bush tax program and the implementation of the health care bill represent the two largest tax increases in modern history. Add to that serious talk of a VAT and passing cap and trade. Nothing here tocreate optimism about the future for business owners or consumers. Top that off with government borrowing of $1.8 trillion last year and $1.5 trillion this year and on into the future, it is no surprise that owners are fearful and pessimistic.
What’s missing from the “debate” is logic. Policies should not violate common sense and logic, if they do, they are misleading and disguising a hidden agenda. Arguing that more government spending and taxes are needed to re-establish optimism, confidence and growth doesn’t meet the common sense test. Saving bankrupt companies to preserve union jobs doesn’t make sense either. The list of these “policy inconsistencies” is long.
Bottom line, owners remain pessimistic and nothing is happening in Washington to provide encouragement. Confidence is lost. At least the “real variables” (hiring, capital spending and inventory investment) did not deteriorate substantially in July. The damage to the Optimism Index was done by expectations for business conditions for the second half – owners predict that the economy will not improve appreciably, at least on Main Street. Big banks and big manufacturers may be doing well, but the small
firms are not. If this doesn’t change soon, the success of the large firms will be imperiled as well.”
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.