#280 Stocks Market Highs, American Business Lows


Despite stock market indexes reaching all-time highs, American businesses are falling to new lows. The reason is that the golden age of US innovation and capitalism has given way to what our guest Rana Foroohar calls "financialization.” Rana is the Time business and economics columnist and author of "Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business." The book divides the American business world into "Makers," those companies that serve the real economy by providing capital and investing in long-term growth and "Takers," those who use financial engineering to juice short-term profits and as a result, enrich their shareholders and themselves.

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How did we go from the simple explanation of banking that Jimmy Stewart provided in "It's A Wonderful Life" ("The money's not here [in the bank]. Your money is in Joe's house that's right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house and Mrs. Macklin's house and a hundred others") to a world where only about 15 percent of all the money in our system actually ends up in the real economy?  Rana notes that the 40-year process has culminated in the financial sector holding "a disproportionate amount of power in sheer economic terms. It represents about 7 percent of our economy but takes around 25 percent of our economy of all corporate profits, while creating only 4 percent of all jobs."

And if you have an MBA or are thinking of getting one, you might be interested in knowing that "an increasing number of business educators at top schools are concerned that MBA programs are churning out number crunchers without a conscience." Before you get too depressed, listen to the whole interview, because Rana notes "Despite all our problems, America is still the prettiest house on the ugly block that is the global economy." There are also some interesting policy shifts that could occur that would remedy the trend.

Callers/Listener E-Mails:

If you are interested in starting your own business, check out my conversation with Barbara, who is trying to decide whether or not to start a private practice. We discuss the Social Security Windfall Elimination for Scott, the use of fixed annuity for Deanna and robo advisors for Andrew.

Thanks to everyone who participated this week, especially Mark, the Best Producer/Music Curator in the World. Here's how to contact us:

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