THE FUTURIST: Economic and existential concerns cloud the future – Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:24 pm

By David Houle

September is a month that has had a lot of meaning for most members of the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers through their lives.

It was the month when most of us went back to school or off to college. It was the start of the traditional TV season back when there were just a few channels. It was the month when the new car models were revealed by the Detroit automakers.

Labor Day was the official end of summer and it was back to the realities of work and school. Summer romances quickly receded as a result. Back to life and the new possibilities. Summer vacation was over.

(When did it become a reality that K-12 schools and colleges started their school years by mid-August? When and why did that happen? School got out in early June and began again in early September. Remember those last two weeks of August when the summer job ended and you had a couple of weeks of hazy summer days? What happened to that seasonal rhythm?)

Well, as we move into September this year, there are a lot of events ahead that could profoundly shape the business and investment landscapes. It is a month when active investors need to pay close attention to non-financial news.

Nuclear war

This is the only part that feels like the old days. For my entire life until I was into my 40s, mutually assured destruction was simply an existential reality. This time, of course, we have shouted boasting from two leaders who seem to have little perspective on what nuclear war truly would be.

I dont think this will happen.But if any type of conflict arises, the equities markets will do a fast and probably prolonged swan dive to substantially lower valuations.

The inability of Congress and the president to get anything done.

History suggests that when either party controls the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, that party would move quickly and efficiently on a legislative agenda. Not in 2017. I cannot remember any time in my life and perhaps in history when a party in control of the executive and legislative branches was so incapable of governing. I would say the same thing if it were Democrats.

This inability to work for the benefit of America is dangerous and could have profoundly negative economic consequences.

Health care represents 17 percent of the nations GDP and currently is in a state of suspended animation and uncertainty. Not good.

The all talk, no action on much-needed infrastructure funding needs will be a true drag on the economy. Crumbling roads, a reported 10,000 bridges in critical condition of collapse, railroad tracks in complete disrepair, an aging air traffic control system and even the crumbling of the New York City subway system are all a drag on the economy and a danger to citizens. Imagine the consequences if no acceptable infrastructure bill gets passed and there are several train crashes and collapsed bridges that take American lives because of the absence of leadership and intelligent action in Washington.

Economic issues

Of course, there are truly significant economic events ahead in September that have the capacity to cause havoc with almost any investment portfolio.

First, there is the need to raise the debt ceiling by the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown. Our national debt is $20 trillion and our unsecured indebtedness as a country is close to $100 trillion.

Take the current ineffectual political leadership and layer on top of it the politicians who have spent a lot of hot air talking about the need for a balanced budget and what do you have?

Which bad option will they embrace? A call to keep the debt ceiling where it is, triggering a default? Or passage of legislation raising the debt ceiling and increasing the leveraged state of the country?

A default would have massively negative effects on financial markets. An increase in the debt ceiling continues what seems to be a path to ultimate default and will have a lesser but still significant effect on markets.

The Republicans have stated consistently they want to pass a tax-reform bill that simplifies the tax code and lowers taxes. It is hard to see how this can happen any time during the debt-ceiling discussions.

Am I delusional or are our elected officials?

As a now full-time resident of Sarasota, I look forward to September and October as those months of perfect weather when the snowbirds and winter tourists have yet to clog our streets and restaurants. On the political and financial fronts, however, September 2017 may well prove to be an extremely nervous, unsettling and perhaps negative time for investors and business people.

Pay attention and be ready to move quickly with your portfolios.

Sarasota resident David Houle is a globally recognized futurist. He has given speeches on six continents, written seven books and is futurist in residence at the Ringling College of Art + Design. His website is Email him at

THE FUTURIST: Economic and existential concerns cloud the future - Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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