By the time most of you read this, I should be on my way to New Jersey for almost a week of consulting for a hospital system in the area. This is a big deal to me because it means that the chains are finally off the wallets of some hospitals, now that the health care bill has been passed, and that most of them have some kind of idea of what their monetary situations are as it pertains to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
As I look at health care, it makes me wonder whether the economy is finally starting to turn around for the better, after about 2 years of horrible financial distress around the world. Actually, that’s not quite a true statement. I don’t wonder about it at all because I think I know the answer, and I’d like us to discuss it to see if I’m alone in this thought.
What I think the answer turns out to be is “no”. Here are some reasons why I say that.
1. Unemployment in the United States is around 9.7%. It’s remained there for the last two months, which means it hasn’t gotten any better, but it hasn’t gotten any worse. I’m not one who believes if you’re not falling further behind that you’re actually making progress.
2. Housing is still in the tank. Real estate people are saying that things are getting better because foreclosures are starting to diminish. I’m sorry, but if foreclosure rates were around 40% a month for awhile, and now they’re down to 22%, to me that doesn’t mean things are getting better, just that there are fewer properties for banks to foreclose upon. Home sales in general aren’t getting all that much better, home prices are still way down, and banks are trying to inflate the prices of some homes by withholding how many foreclosed properties they’re putting on the market.
3. Banks are closing at a higher rate than last year at the same time. There were around 140 banks that were closed last year by the Federal Reserve, the highest number since 1990. As I wrote on my finance blog last week, we were at 37 bank closures before Friday (that’s usually when you hear about more banks being closed), which was 16 ahead March 28th of last year. Also, all the large banks that had received bailout money from the government have paid it back, but more than half of those banks are recording losses ever since they left. That doesn’t bode well for anyone.
4. And that’s only in the United States. British banks are in trouble because the American banks are in trouble. Most of you heard about the problems in Abu Dhabi as they thought they’d be able to build forever without having any extra cash, investors, or clean water, let alone building everything on slave labor (no, they don’t like talking about it). Foreign investments are having problems as well, and let’s face it, the Chinese market is killing all of us because they just won’t open up; Chinese leaders, communism is dead and dying!
5. Credit. I’m talking about all of it, or the loss of it. Remember when you used to get 3 to 4 credit card offers a week? For about 8 or 9 months I stopped getting any, and now I’m getting one a week, for my business, and that’s it. Banks have learned the wrong lesson. They were giving a lot of credit to people who didn’t deserve to have it, or as much as they gave out, and they got burned. They got burned because they generated a lot of revenue that’s not real money, and when people were suddenly out of work and couldn’t pay, even collection efforts couldn’t save banks because all that money, which they turned around and invested, wasn’t real.
Now they’ve decided they’re not giving almost any money out, even to people with high credit scores, which I’ve already deemed are worthless. There are people with high credit scores being turned down for loans; that’s a shame. And let’s not even talk about how people are being cheated as it comes to their credit cards, even with the new legislation. Once again, this isn’t just in the United States.
Those are only a couple of reasons why I don’t believe the economy has turned around. I could go into a litany of things, but this should be enough to get a discussion going. Yes, some things are finally starting to turn around for me, but I never use myself as a gauge for how things are going for everyone else. What say you?