Thursday, January 17, 2013

Outsourcing Your Own Job

This is an amusing story, making the rounds today, about a software engineer who outsourced his own job without telling his bosses. He pocketed the cost difference and it worked, for a while.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Second Smithers Interview

My follow-up interview with British economist Andrew Smithers is up at Paul Solman's "Making Sen$e" (PBS NewsHour) page.

Our discussion is about the decades-long decline in labor's share of output. Andrew sees bonus-oriented management compensation as the main cause, and, at the link, gives more of his reasoning. He sees some merit in the idea that a weaker environment for antitrust regulation may also be part of it, and he considers the bottom-line effect on the earnings of the S&P 500.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pam, the Flood, and Erosion

My clients uniformly tell me how much they like talking to Pam Wilmoth, who runs the office here at Shayne & Co. Me too!

She is the president of the the homeowners' association in her neighborhood, where she and her neighbors are still dealing with the some of the aftermath of the 2010 Nashville flood. Her neighborhood could use help from local students of engineering or architecture, or firms in those fields, to help them deal with erosion. WSMV-TV interviewed her, here, about this. The link currently has only the text from the interview, not the video.

(The reporter calls her Pam Miller; her full name is Pam Wilmoth-Miller.)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Good Chart on Profit Margin Reversion

U.S. corporate profit margins are, in aggregate, wide now, and at risk of reverting to the mean.

The second chart in this piece by John Hussman, who is a money manager and a former professor of economics at Michigan, is interesting as evidence of this.

(I have blogged about this topic before, here.)

Whether the problem is pervasive across the economy, or isolated within particular industries, is hard to know. If the cause is a weak bargaining position for employees because unionization has declined, or because foreign competition has increased, then the widening of profit margins is probably fairly pervasive across income statements in nearly all industries. If, however, the cause is weaker antitrust enforcement, then the wider margins may be limited to industries in which concentration has increased over the past two or three decades. And a third possibility is that if Andrew Smithers is correct in his argument (discussed at second link above) that the widening is caused by the bonus culture run amok, then the effect may be mostly in companies that have incentive-heavy management compensation cultures.

It may be a mix of these. Anyway, the fact that capital is getting a bigger piece of the pie than it used to is much clearer than the "why."