|Attrition Is Decay And Decline Over Time|
What started as the Fed's short-term solution to prop up and stabilize a troubled economy has morphed into business as usual and become accepted as normal. More and more it seems that people have accepted the idea that the economy is evolving and other than that nothing is different in the way it operates. The truth is we are accepting less than spectacular results from an ill-conceived economic policy and placing them in a positive light. Considering the amount of newly printed cash that has been created and poured into the economy our failure to achieve escape velocity should trouble us far more than it has. This could be said about the global economy as well, growth is constrained considering central banks have been more than generous at the same time governments across the world continue to run huge deficits. Clearly austerity has been deemed a dirty word and any country claiming to pursue such policies has done so in word only.
Currently the economy is slowing, not only in America, but across the world. What many people see as a lack of momentum could be something far more disruptive and disturbing, it could be we are beginning to see attrition starting to take its toll. Attrition is defined as "the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure." Today real and solid economic growth as traditionally defined is very elusive and has been largely replaced and supplanted by something harder to understand. Growth in both the financial markets and the "virtual part of the economy" made up of items like the internet, smartphones, and other things that create little in the way of tangible growth has become the driver of our lives while demand in many key more conventional areas languish.
Trends in the type of small businesses being created or how they are changing can give us a peek into the future and a hint at what is to come. Over the years we have seen a substantial change in the nature of new businesses that give a glance into the future and developments that will shape both society and the economy. Years ago small independent doctors began having their practices purchased by bigger groups, than hospital giants, next we had a slew of mortgage companies form, they vanished when housing crashed. Today between the thrift-shops and secondhand stores we have seen the following popping up, tattoo parlors, nail salons, massage parlors, coffeehouses, photography studios, and most of all staffing agencies that provide workers for local businesses. Many of these business start-ups have two things in common and that is little in the way of capital is needed to open their doors, and most have a short unprofitable life span.
Yesterday as I drove across town and saw all the buildings sporting "For Sale" or "Available" signs the term a great waste land came to mind. More and more lately I have found that many of the people requesting to look at commercial space for a new business are clueless or totally unrealistic as to the numbers involved in leasing space and starting a business. Even more disturbing is that in the last two weeks I have seen tenants leasing residential space from me who I know are on a very shaky financial footing, approved for purchases they are totally incapable of handling, one just bought a house, and the other a new car. The gal buying the house has had her utilities turned off several times due to non-payment and the other person has at times been months behind on rent and received food stamps. Both of these transactions signal problems ahead and are proof the Fed is pushing on a string in hopes something will happen to transform our sagging prospects.
Forces that have been at work for sometime have weakened and worn down many real businesses and the new "Uber business" model should raise great concern because it has the potential to steer our economy off the cliff. Watching real businesses with a dozen or more employees closing their doors to be replaced by independent part timers playing by their own rules does not scream "quality growth" and has the potential to have a very debilitating effect on the economy undermining both social stability and communities. The Fed can only move the economy forward so far by way of artificially low interest rates and questionable loan standards before they come back to haunt us. This article was written to make two points, one a lot of what is happening reflects an economy that is crippled and getting weaker, the other to say sometimes it takes longer than we think it should for reality to raise its ugly head.