Five political surprises for 2011

The Washington Post asked several political pundits: “What will be the biggest political surprise of 2011?” Here are some of the wild cards of U.S. politics this year:

  • Public-sector labor strikes and demonstrations as state/local governments cut budgets. “The same kind of protests that have rocked Paris, London and Rome could erupt in California, New York and Illinois.”
  • Efforts to repeal the big health care reform legislation will have the unintended effect of educating the public about the good things in it.
  • The consensus that marked the lame-duck congressional session will continue in the new year (e.g., the DREAM immigration act could be passed).
  • The emergence of a potentially serious third-party candidate for president in 2012.
  • President Obama will definitely end the war in Afghanistan, while Republicans will have the unpopular position of supporting open-ended commitment.

10 signals and trends

Gleaned from recent press reports and other sources:

These are boom times for U.S. makers of unmanned military aircraft (drones).

Sample Lab Ltd. opened a  “marketing cafe” in Tokyo that lets trend-setting women see and test new products.

With the recession crimping legal budgets, some big companies are insisting on flat-fee payments instead of law firms’ long-standing practice of the “billable hour.”

City “water cops” are handing out citations to people caught wasting water resources in drought-stricken areas.

Lumber mills that produce woods for hardwood floors and maple cabinets have been devastated by the U.S. recession’s double whammy: the housing bust and unavailable credit.

Some hospitals find that owning up to medical errors reduces litigation and helps them learn from their mistakes.

Despite a 25-year effort to improve U.S. education, the latest high-school SAT exam scores are disappointing. Asian-American students are thriving but the SAT gap for blacks and Hispanics widens.

More than half of Somalia’s population needs humanitarian aid, the U.N. says.

Software makers are scrambling to develop cell phone safety applications that prevent texting while driving.

Inexpensive mini-reactors may be an alternative to building giant nuclear powerplants, though there are technical, financial and regulatory hurdles.

Top five political issues in the U.S., 2008

Top five political issues in the U.S. ( May 2008 )

Issues cited as “very important”

  • Economy (88%)
  • Education (78%)
  • Health care (78%)
  • Jobs (78%)
  • Energy (77%)

————
Source: Pew Research Center telephone poll of 1,505 adults, conducted May 21-25; multiple responses allowed. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points. Reported in The Wall Street Journal 9 June 2008.

Note: A similar poll last year had Iraq as the top issue.

Top concerns of CFOs, 2008

The top external concerns of U.S. CFOs:

  1. Consumer demand
  2. Credit markets & interest rates
  3. Housing-market fallout
  4. Cost of fuel
  5. Cost of nonfuel commodities

Top internal, company-specific concerns:

  1. Cost & availability of labor [nonfinance]
  2. Ability to forecast results
  3. Cost of health care
  4. Supply-chain risk
  5. Data security

————
Source: Duke University/CFO magazine survey of 475 U.S. CFOs, May 2008

Related:
June 2007 (previous post) What CFOs worry about
Most companies fail at forecasting earnings
CFOs predict: The top business risks through 2009

8 top business issues for ’08

No surprises here.  But it’s a nice restating of the obvious megatrends. From interviews with industry consultants at Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, here are eight business issues “that resonated across multiple industry sectors and could have a dramatic impact” this year:

  • Globalization
  • Convergence
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Rising Energy & Health Care Costs
  • Transparency
  • Technology Use & Integration
  • The 2008 Presidential Election
  • Talent Management

————
Source: “2008 Industry Outlook: A Look Around the Corner,” Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, January 2008
The full report, with analyses for various industries, is available here.

Continue reading “8 top business issues for ’08”