Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Manufacturing nothing

The financial downturn, or recession (there, I said it!) has multiple causes. Here's just one, courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, via The Economist.

U.S. corporate profits no longer come from what Americans produce, or make with their hands, i.e. manufacturing. What Americans do, at least those of the wealthy variety, is to manipulate financial instruments (financial gaming), via computer keystrokes.

The American financial-services industry's share of total corporate profits rose
from 10% in the early 1980s to 40% at its peak last year. Its share of stock
market value grew fr om 6% to 19%. These proportions look all the more
striking—even unsustainable—when you note that financial services account for
only 15% of corporate America's gross value added and a mere 5% of
private-sector jobs.

So 5 percent of the U.S. workforce made 40 percent of the total corporate profits from playing around with risky, hard-to-understand paper.

To drop a 1984 Dire Strait's reference on you, that's "money for nothing."

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