Wall Street, Washington and individuals have achieved alignment. Unfortunately, that alignment is stupid, careless and destructive. The alignment I am talking about is a severe case of “short-term-itis.” Our thoughts and actions have coalesced to settle in on this immediate gratification mentality. In Washington, it is driven by the next election. On Wall Street, it is all about quarterly earnings. The individual’s, driven by fear or greed, need to have the objects of their desires-now!
Building anything with a short-term destination in mind is an exercise in nothing less than stupidity. Companies are afraid to invest in long-term research and development because of the impact on earnings. God forbid earning come in at or below expectations; the stock drop will be precipitous and investor law suits are surely to follow. By employing this kind of strategy, where will the innovation come from? Certainly not from well-funded companies with the resources to plan long-term and carry out strategies that support these projects over decades, not quarters.
Every shareholder of every public company should be knocking down the doors of these companies demanding that long-term thinking and strategy needs to be employed, rather than, “just give me my dividends today” mentality. It goes against logic that a company is driven by current earnings and not a sustainable program of reinvention, redevelopment and research. Think about our energy issues; is oil the long-term solution?
Everyone knows that our tax structure is broken-it is built on an Edsel frame and our legislators want to hang Ferrari parts on it. Unfortunately, the politicians are unwilling to look for long-term solutions to long-term problems. The fear of creating “waves” and jeopardizing their future election is too great to provide the will to do what’s needed to fix the system from the ground up. Did anyone say term limits? Taxpayers should be demanding their representatives stand up and provide for the future as defined through a long-term point of view. It should be inculcated in every branch of government-right down to the Mayor and Council and School Board; today is important-but so is five, ten and twenty years down the pike.
Individuals are not exempt from this “now” thinking. I see it constantly with people swamped in credit card debt. They NEED it now-not later, when the funds are in their accounts. They want and demand immediate gratification. As we enter the holiday season, people over-spend their resources in order to meet someone else’s expectation or what we believe is someone’s expectation. No, I am not bashing the holiday and the spirit of giving-but how about a dash of reason. The January credit card statements come soon enough into the new year bringing with it more than a dash of dismay. We need, as a society, by starting individually to find the balance between now and later. Perhaps, if we put ourselves on a course of financial prudence, we will have the moral high ground to demand it of our government and corporations.
The fact is, we are in this alignment in stupid-it is devoid of truth, courage and values. If you ask anyone if it is prudent to think long-term, I am confident of more than a fair share of positive responses. If you ask anyone if they believe the government and our businesses should consider long-range thinking, again an affirmative would undoubtedly be the answer. When you ask that same individual to begin by acting in alignment with that long-term thinking idea-how many would ready, willing and able to act? The answer: probably not enough.