Out Of The Fiscal Cliff And Into The Fire: Art Cashin On The Real Economic Malaise

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Forget the Fiscal Cliff: it is merely a much needed economic distraction for the next 3-4 months (distracting from what? Why Europe of course). Yes, it will be resolved, and yes taxes will go up, and yes, debates over it will most likely be carried over into 2013 and nothing will be compromised until the ultimate debt ceiling deadline (because it is really a Fiscal Cliff-Debt Ceiling package deal) is hit some time in March 2013, but eventually one or both parties will cave, right after the market plunges to put it all into the proper perspective as it did around the time of TARP and the August 2011 debt ceiling debate, and a resolution will materialize. The bigger issue has nothing to do with the Fiscal Cliff, which is indeed a sideshow. The bigger issue, as Art Cashin explains, has everything to do with a secular decline in the US economy, where a 1% growth rate will soon be the "New Killing It", where millions more (in part-time workers) will soon be let go, and where businesses no longer generate the cash flows needed to stay open. Art Cashin explains.

From Art Cashin

He Laughs And Smiles Like Santa But Sounds A Bit Like Scrooge – One of my most anticipated research reads is Kate Welling's package called "Welling on Wall St". It invariably provides that rare combination of insight and entertainment. Nobody gets more out of an interview than Kate and she's been doing that for decades. In the most recent Welling on Wall St, she did a marvelous interview of Bloomberg's Rich Yamarone.

Rich is a good friend (part of our occasional dining group) and a treasure trove of anecdotal insights and comments of CEOs and CFOs around the country. Their companies range from the local to the multi-national. Rich compiles the Bloomberg Orange Book monthly, reflecting the economy through those quotes and comments. He has a grueling speaking schedule as Kate drew out in the interview. Here's a bit that made me wince:

The fiscal cliff actually doesn't seem to be all that problematic. What is problematic is just that the economy is slowing and people are not coming to stores. The small retailers are saying customers are not coming into the stores. They don't have good traffic and they're losing a lot of sales to the internet.

 

The other thing that is actually quite disturbing is that – if I go give a speech to 400 or 500 people in a specific city, for instance a Chamber event, and it's a doom and gloom speech because I am a very big bear on the economy now – this is what has been happening: Some people will always come up and say, "Hey, you know, I agreed with this, I disagreed with that." But lately they've been adding, "But you're 100% right, this economy is much weaker than anybody in the press is letting you know or leading you to believe." And out of an audience of 400, I have recently been getting 25 to 40 people coming up to me after the event saying things like, "I didn't raise my hand because we're at an event where my competitors are sitting across the table from me and I didn't want to advertise this, but I'm folding my business after Christmas. My name is on top of the 100-year-old, four generation family business, or a 75-year-old, third-generation business, and I have to shut the doors. But I don't want to do it before Christmas because then I have to answer all these questions and I'm going to be an embarrassment to my family." That's a very powerful statement.

Under further questioning from Kate, Rich maintains that he hears that lamentable refrain from a dozen or more folks at such speeches. That's not a pretty picture at all.

Source: UBS