Friday, May 29, 2015

Business Executives are NOT experts in Economics

by Bill McBride on 5/29/2015 02:53:00 PM

Excuse this pet peeve, but for some reason, when a business executive is interviewed on CNBC (and elsewhere), they are asked about economics in addition to their assumed areas of expertise. News flash: Business executives are NOT experts in economics (This should be called the "Jack Welch rule").

An example today: Richard Kovacevich, former chairman and CEO at Wells Fargo was on CNBC today, and said:

"We should be growing at 3 percent, given the difficulty of this last recession," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "We always get a higher and faster recovery from a tough recession, and this is the slowest ever, and I think it's the policies that are coming out of Washington DC that are causing this."
Wrong.

Imagine an economy with an unchanging labor force, and no innovation (everyone just does things they way they've always been done). How much should GDP grow? Zero.

Now imagine a second economy with a labor force growing 5% per year, no resource constraints, a short learning curve, and no innovation. How much should GDP grow? About 5% per year.

That is why I wrote Demographics and GDP: 2% is the new 4% earlier this year.

Two lessons: 1) Experts in one field are not necessarily experts in another, and 2) demographics matter - and right now 2% is the new 4%.