Last month I attended an awards banquet for CORPATH, an organization committed to protecting, promoting and perpetuating defined-benefit pensions. I learned a lot about how important a lifetime retirement pension for the average American use to be and how it has been largely brushed over by corporations and the government. I was able to hear from some of the nation’s top financial experts on a broad range of topics that included everything from how politics is affecting the markets today as well as mega-trends that will change our economics of the future.
It’s no secret to most that artificial intelligence, or AI as we most often hear it referred to, has created more modern conveniences than most of us could have imagined. Today our computers with auto-filling functions finish our sentences for us making it a pain in the butt to completely fill out anything on our own, and the internet seems to be full of websites where our preferences magically follow us around proving they know us better than we know ourselves. This is both exciting and scary at the same time. Outside of the potential questions posed in sci-fi movies, this trend is morphing the economic tiering of Americans now and to a greater extent in the future. In other words, for every Jeff Bezos there are millions of Americans who are not just losing their jobs but their industries they work in to these technological advances.
The other big mega-trend discussed is the impact of the changing demographics in this country. We are getting older, staying alive longer, saving less, and creating a larger income gap between the top 1% and everyone else. The mix of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and iGens in the US is creating a dynamic and unpredictable scenario in politics, society and the financial markets. The baby boomers’ control most of the wealth and power in the country. Gen Xers who share more values with Baby Boomers were from the era of birth control and Roe v Wade and so they represent a much smaller part of our society. However, the Millennial generation is massive and will have more than 50% of all jobs in less than a couple of years. There is much already written about the differences between the values and culture of baby boomers and the millennials who will soon be taking over many of the leadership roles in both government and corporate America. The Z Generation or as some call them iGens have already started to show themselves to be a political force but have some disturbing trends in their physical and mental health at early ages. It’s a very interesting time to be in America for sure.
The highlight of the conference was a speech given by James Meketa, retired founder of Meketa Investment Group. He gave an amazing speech about the loss of Patriotism in Corporate America. Every speaker after him both acknowledged the speech as spot-on and inspiring. Being retired perhaps he was willing to say things that could be unpopular in financial circles, but clearly resonated with everyone who heard it. Here is what I got from his speech.
What is more disturbing than our politics these days is the more silent trend of the gluttonous leadership displayed in Corporate America. We started adopting economic neo-liberalism (laissez faire economic policy) in our country back in the mid-1940s to recover from World War II. The first 25 years delivered prosperity to most of the country. Since then, CEOs have taken good care of themselves seeing an 1800% increase in pay, while the bottom 50% of America has not seen a raise in over 50 years. Meanwhile the equity of middle America got wiped out in the 2008 crash and no one was held accountable. Instead we dumped billions into the banking system creating cheap money (proving liquidity to avoid a run on the banks). We were hoping banks would lend money to start small businesses and help struggling Americans buy homes again, but it seems like most of it was used to do stock buy backs (which benefit the CEOs) and build manufacturing abroad in the global markets. This kind of unregulated capitalism leads to monopolies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google who control much of our future. Corporations are buying our government and controlling everything.
If you don’t believe it consider, the average income in America is around $62,000, but the average cost of healthcare for a family is around $19,000, the average mortgage is about $12,000 per year, and if you want to send your kids to state college plan on $50,000 per child plus room and board. It is no wonder why the savings for America has dropped through the floor. Yet according to Money magazine, 82% of the wealth created in 2017 went to the top 1% of the country. In the last 10 years there has been more wealth created than ever in the history and yet we borrowed a trillion dollars to pay our bills last year and the average American has only about $400 of disposable income per month.
While some choose to politicize these numbers, that only wastes more valuable time instead of fixing the problems. If we don’t find the answers to these economic abnormalities, they will topple the greatest country the planet has ever known.
Mekata’s answer to our problems came in a nostalgic Americana story about how proud he was to become a Boy Scout. The Boy Scout Oath calls for duty to God and Country, then other people and then yourself. If only our leaders remembered the time tested truth of this oath, their choices would better serve all. He reminded us of what it meant to be a citizen and how lucky we are to be Americans. We must start to look at the big picture like citizens and like the Boy Scouts before it’s too late.
The 2-day event was an amazing experience and left me thinking about where we are in this time of accelerated change, political division, and economic uncertainty. I am very relieved to see that people smarter than me are paying attention to what we don’t see in the “news”. The economic inequality problem in America must be solved beyond politics and for the greater good of our citizens. We have done incredible things in the face of adversity and overcome the outrageous odds, I am hopeful that our ability to get out of this mess will be another example of this country’s incredible resilience, evolution, and a reminder of how lucky we are to be a part of the miracle dubbed “The Grand Experiment”.
Michael A. DiManno is a thought leader and entrepreneur with over 30 years experience of innovation and fast growth with startup companies in Technology, Insurance, and Employment, or as he calls it “TIE” Services. Mr DiManno founded EmployInsure, LLC (EI) a holding company and incubator for developing “cool stuff” for clients not being served by traditional “TIE” industries. He currently serves as CEO of EI’s signature brands Samuel Hale and TalentHire.
Michael is a writer and speaker for entrepreneurial groups as well as “TIE” industries. He also supports his wife Debbie’s a non-profit, Cour Training, which helps teens survive and thrive in the modern era of constant connection. They have raised 4 children and live with their two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Northern California.
For more information, contact Mike directly at michaeladimanno.com