Looking back, Looking Forward
At the beginning of the new year, we asked colleagues to reflect on the good and the bad of 2022. A diversity of obvious answers came flowing in – pandemic retreats, Ukraine war begins, markets decline. But we also recognized some larger trends were developing that promise to impact the future. Our limited survey revealed challenges, innovations, failures, and accomplishments that are bound to make an impact for years ahead. We wanted to share several of the insights and encourage readers to reflect on their own.
Negative Trends in the last year:
- The sad temper of our times continues with increasing awareness of crime and physical violence, growing political disagreements, and blatant misstatements that deny reality. Confidential information isn’t very confidential anymore. Goodwill seems to be declining.
- Income inequality remains problematic and has negative consequences for social cohesion and economic growth. The bottom fifth of income earners increased their household net worth by 17% since 2021, but the capital system continues to favor the top fifth of household income earners. The gap remains.1
- A major demographic shift is occurring as the global population ages with even America experiencing negative birth rates. Such trends are impacting labor markets and the demand for goods and services. The current national debt has grown to $31.4 trillion dollars up from $21.5 trillion in 2018.2 We are spending more than we can afford. It will be hard to repay.
FEDERAL DEBT HELD BY THE PUBLIC, 1900 TO 2052
Percentage of GDP
Positive Trends in the last year:
- The Federal Reserve finally takes inflation seriously by increasing interest rates to slow the economy and control the increasing prices of goods. The Federal Reserve raised the short-term rate from near zero last March to close to 4.5% at the end of the year. While painful for both the stock and bond markets, controlling inflation sets the stage for future economic growth and accelerated market advances in the years ahead. The recession will come and then go.
- Widespread international support developed for Ukraine in its war against the Russian invasion of its lands. Terrible scenes of human suffering dominated the news. Ukraine demonstrated inspirational bravery and resilience in the face of overwhelming Russian military strength. Almost all the democratic, western countries banded together to send financial support, military aid, and moral support that recognizes the sovereign rights of all countries for independence. This support reinforces a universal standard of what it means to be independent. Ukraine will survive.
- The markets witnessed a decline in excess speculation. The trend created by several years of market advances created unrealistic appetites for further advances and silly expectations. Last year saw an outrageous price movement in meme stocks (e.g., GameStop) which resulted in losing money for many the least able to lose; the promotion of SPAC structures, many of which have gone bankrupt while making their promoters rich; and the financial frauds such as Crypto custodians (FTX). Investors are becoming more cautious.
GAME STOP PRICE CHART | 5 YEARS
There are many other equally, or more important, trends that can be identified. 2022 was a historic year that will leave its impacts for many years. 2023 promises to present new challenges with slowing economic growth typical of a recession, but a promise of better markets and better times. We would welcome your thoughts on the year behind and year ahead.
 Get Ready for the Richcession – WSJhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/get-ready-for-the-richcession-11672615577?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1
 DAILY TREASURY STATEMENT – Cash and debt operations of the United States Treasury 22100300.pdf (treasury.gov)
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