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.

‘The Era of Angry Populism has only just begun’

Robert Reich — author, professor and former U.S. secretary of labor — describes the mood of the American populace tonight, shortly before the U.S. Senate vote on the so-called financial bailout bill. His conclusion: “angry populism is about to explode.”

This mood will last longer than one night or one week; it will carry over into the November elections and well into the first year of the next White House administration.

Excerpts from Reich’s blog post:

While more Americans are coming around to “supporting” the bailout bill, the vast majority still hate the idea of bailing out Wall Street. They’re for the bailout bill now only because they fear that a failure to pass it will have worse consequences — drying up credit at a time when Main Street is struggling. But make no mistake: America is mad as hell. They resent what they perceive as extortion by the Masters of the Universe.

Angry populism has always been a potent force in American politics. And now, with wages dropping, jobs insecure, fuel and food and health-insurance costs soaring, and millions of homes in jeopardy — and what’s perceived to be a massive taxpayer bailout of some of the richest people in the land — angry populism is about to explode.

The larger economic outlook is not encouraging. All signs point to the economy worsening, bailout or no bailout. Unemployment will continue to rise. Median earnings will continue to drop, adjusted for inflation. More Americans will lose their health insurance.

The Era of Angry Populism has only just begun.

The resurgence of anti-business populism; more regulation ahead

New rules reveal CEO perks

U.S. disclosure rules that took effect last year are prompting companies to reveal (in proxy statements) a wide variety of perks provided to CEOs in fiscal 2007. Examples:

  • Kathleen Danenberg, Response Genetics Inc.: $86,622 for clothing expenses (since repaid).
  • Micky Arison, Carnival Corp.: $115,884 for courtside Miami Heat basketball tickets (he owns the team).
  • Bahram Akradi, LifeTime Fitness Inc.: $31,777, for high-speed wireless Internet access (to tap company systems from home).
  • Martha Stewart, $5,000 for her yoga instructor.

Source: The Wall Street Journal 9 June 2008

Peripheral vision

Five things that caught my eye:

The resurgence of anti-business populism; more regulation ahead

We’ve already seen the U.S. presidential candidates embrace populist, anti-corporate appeals. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, has taken whacks at Wall Street. John Edwards, a Democrat, lays out his “stop corporate abuses” manifesto here. There’s a reason they do this: It really resonates with the public, at a time of globalization, job insecurity, outsourcing, mass layoffs, a looming recession, corporate scandals, congressional earmarks for contractors, $100/barrel oil, election campaigns funded by corporate interests (need I go on?)….

And now comes a survey, from public-affairs polling firm Ipsos-Reid, showing that it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon but a global one. Important note: The firm polled 22,000 people in 22 countries — but they didn’t interview just any warm body. The respondents are what the firm calls the “Intelligaged,” people who are online, vote in elections, discuss politics, etc. (see methodology below).

The pollsters concluded that:

…a majority of the world’s most engaged citizens is letting it be known that large companies have too much influence on the decisions of their government and they want a more aggressive crackdown on the activities and influence of national and multinational corporations…

…public opinion among the most active, connected and engaged global citizens is putting global and national corporations at risk for potential government interventions and tighter regulatory incursions because its most elite citizens will back such moves.

Specifically, the Ipsos poll found that:

  • Three quarters (74%) of the “intelligaged” citizens agree that large companies have “too much influence on the decisions” of their government. This was especially true in Latin America (83%) and North America (81%).
  • A full majority (72%) of the “intelligaged” citizens believe that the government of their country “should be more aggressive in regulating the activities of national and multinational corporations.”

Continue reading “The resurgence of anti-business populism; more regulation ahead”