NANCY’S BLOG: We The Economy.

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Though fundamental to our well-being, few can speak with a lot of confidence on the Economy:  How it works? And how it’s shifting? And how any of this impacts us?

In an effort to help us all better grasp the basics – and hopefully then become more informed voters — an ambitious new project launched last week, partnering 20 award-winning directors with 10 highly credentialed economists to create 20 short films that each explain a specific aspect of the Economy in 5-8min. Designed to increase bipartisan understanding, this series, titled WeTheEconomy, was spurred by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, produced by Morgan Spurlock and has been made available for free on 50 digital, cable, TV and mobile platforms. Invited to play a small role in shaping this at the outset, we share their passion for helping us all better connect the dots and encourage to you to take a peek… and join the conversation.

Delving even deeper, we spent this week examining one of (if not the) biggest economic issues shaping our future:  income inequality. Yep, we keep talking about it because it just keeps growing.  As the very recent Global Wealth report from Credit Suisse illuminates, the richest 1% of the world population now control 48% of the world’s wealth. In reverse, 3.2 billion people (representing approximately 70% of the world’s adult population) control just 3% of the world’s wealth. Closer to home, Fed Chief Janet Yellen reported last week that 62 million households in America’s least affluent half averaged only $11,000 in net worth last year — 50% less than bottom-half families averaged after inflation in 1989 — citing that the increasing wealth gap is “her greatest concern.”

But isn’t global poverty improving? So what is the big deal?

Yes, encouragingly poverty rates are declining around the world. But an increasingly bipolar economy still raises these critical questions:

1. What demands will a growing low-income population have on Federal, State and City government systems – around the world? Where will investments need to shift?  How will private sector enterprises/investors help fill these gaps?

2. How does this impact businesses and brands who have aimed their products and services at what was once a thriving American middle class? Which will adapt… and which will die?

3. Given that our GDP is nearly 70% fueled by (new) consumer spending, how will those traditional success metrics hold as we split between a high net worth, very consumptive society searching for things to spend money on [note: I received a VIP invite to buy an F1 nightclub party table tonight for $20,890, all taxes included]…. and an increasingly minimalist one which embraces used/upcycled purchases, sharing/swapping, voluntary simplicity and a much more intentional approach to buying? What markets new will develop? Which will no longer be relevant?

4. Most provocatively, how will we maintain a just and thriving society?  

As was reported just a few days ago, the number of billionaires has doubled since the recession, totaling 1,645 today. Fortunately (… or not?), more are deciding to leave a only a small portion to their heirs and instead are pioneering a totally new shift toward extreme philanthropy. While this has the potential to address important holes in our social fabric… it simultaneously gives a very small number of folks an extraordinarily potent voice, doesn’t it?

Interestingly, the middle class has an unlikely advocate emerging: billionaire tech investor Nick Hanauer credits his success on his market intuition and therefore is provocatively warning his fellow “zillionaires” that the pitchforks are coming for the Plutocrats unless practices and narratives about Capitalism change. An advocate for “Middle-out economics” and a “new capitalism”, Hanauer begs us to recognize the interdependent nature of our economy and the need to make the system more inclusive, fair and competitive. Among other interventions, he builds a passionate case for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Are clinging to old beliefs and practices heading us toward a highly unsustainable path… or will advancing technologies and increasingly cheaper energy costs disrupt the nature of work and society so radically that even Hanauer’s ideas seem short-sighted…(creating, potentially, a need for a completely new set of videos?)

We’ll be tackling that next! Wishing you a prosperous new week.

Xo.

Nancy

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