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120th Birthday

05/26/2016

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday, Dow Jones Industrial Average,
Happy Birthday to youuuuuuuuuuu  !!!

Yes, today is the 120th birthday of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and you would expect that it would be a time of celebration.  Instead, Wall Streeters have begun slinking into shadows, afraid to identify themselves.  They don’t understand the hostility of Sanders’ supporters and Trump supporters.  After all, their leader,  Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, assured the Wall Streeters that they were “doing God’s work.”  The times, they’re a’changing, indeed!

Now, there has been a controversial article in the May 23rd edition of Time entitled “Saving Capitalism.”  Based on a new book by Rana Foroohar entitled “Makers and Takers,” it argues that the financial sector has become too large.  It decries “the financialization of America.”  That sector is now 7% of GDP, compared to only 4% in 1980.  That is not good for America, because it produces relatively fewer jobs.  With 25% of corporate profits, it represents a mere 4% of all jobs.  This is allegedly proof that the sector is not doing enough for Americans.  (Looking at it differently, 4% of all workers produce 25% of all profits.)

The writer correctly points out that the traditional job of finance has been to recirculate savings from consumers to small business.  Although unsaid, there is a tone that a conspiracy exists to expand that role, to make the industry “too-big-to-control.”  Then, the fat-cat bankers can finally steal Grandma’s money in the dark of night!

No question, the financial sector has grown considerably and has contributed too much to political lobbyists, but that doesn’t imply any sinister plot!

Yes, the financial sector now has a larger share of GDP.  Be thankful, as the manufacturing sector has a smaller share, and that cannot be blamed on the financial sector.  Actually, all service sectors (such as legal, accounting, and real estate) now have a larger share of GDP, not just the financial sector.

Yes, the financial sector has a larger share of GDP, because it is doing more.  It is now helping business manage risk in ways that were unexpected just a few decades ago.  Airline companies now manage the risk of fuel costs better.  More farmers can manage the risk of crop prices.  More people have life insurance and property insurance than ever before.  This is not a bad thing!

Yes, the financial sector has a larger share of GDP, but it was an unintended consequence of the decision to provide old people with income.  This caused a tsunami of money into pension plans, 401(k)s, and IRAs.  Managing all that requires expensive talent, plus the cost of complying with complex regulations.

So, Happy Birthday to the DJIA!  Celebrate today, but then start preparing for a very different future!  The long knives are out there, looking for YOU!

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