We’re doomed!

Deloitte: Thanks to the Internet, Americans Are More or Less Obsessed with TV All the Time

One big concern: once Charlie Sheen continues his epic run (does anyone believe that rehab is going to take?) will the masses be able to survive without Two and a Half Men? Personally, I’ll manage but what about all those American Families that depend on this show to complete that void in their lives every week?

In a media environment saturated with new and evolving online entertainment platforms, TV continues to be king. Released today, Deloitte’s fifth edition “State of the Media Democracy” survey reveals that 71 percent of Americans still rate watching TV on any device among their favorite media activities.

The survey results indicate that live viewing on a home TV system continues to be the most common method among individuals for watching their favorite programming, and supporting the notion that traditional television advertising continues to be a viable model. In addition, 86 percent of Americans stated that TV advertising still has the most impact on their buying decisions.

Deloitte’s State of the Media Democracy survey assesses media consumption preferences of nearly 2,000 consumers, ages 14 to 75 years old in the United States, revealing significant trends including the power of TV when supplemented by the Internet, a dramatic rise in smartphone adoption, the steady popularity of print magazines, and the emergence of cloud computing as a potential consumer entertainment storage and access solution.

And guess what? Not only are people watching more TV, they’re talking about it more. But not face-to-face: Americans can’t be bothered with leaving the confines of their homes or take their eyes off their computers long enough to manage human interaction and thanks to social media, they don’t have to!

Deloitte’s survey indicates that the Internet, mobile and social media channels are enhancing the overall television viewer experience, driving people to watch first-run programs and live events during their initial broadcast. The survey also reveals that nearly three-quarters of American consumers are multitasking while watching TV. According to the research, 42 percent are online, 29 percent are talking on cellphones or mobile devices, and 26 percent are sending instant messages or text messages.

Perhaps even more importantly, 61 percent of U.S. consumers now maintain a social networking site, where constant streams of updates and discussion forums have made delaying awareness of live TV outcomes a near impossibility.

“Consumers are not only watching television, they are talking about it, and those conversations are frequently taking place in real-time online and via IM/texting,” said Phil Asmundson, vice chairman and technology, media and telecommunications industry leader, Deloitte LLP. “By embracing the Internet as a platform that encourages audiences to participate in discussions about their favorite programs, television is maintaining its hold on the American public. People want to be part of the real-time conversation and they are embracing both platforms in a complementary fashion.

Because discussing the train wreck that is Sammi and Ronnie in real time is crucial to the human experience. Carry on.

Lame Duck Tax Policy Prognostication

From tax policy cynic Joe Kristan:

It’s unlikely that the lame ducks will accomplish much.

Jesus, that’s no way to start.

I expect an AMT patch to pass (though you should bet the other way if they offer points). I would bet against the extenders getting past the lame ducks, though it could happen. Action on the Bush tax cuts and the estate tax seems unlikely to me. It would require a triumphal GOP to work out a deal with a President whose response to disagreement so far has been to repeat himself slower and louder. The same dynamics bode poorly for the next Congress when it meets in January.

After such an ugly campaign, we wouldn’t put it past a bunch of losers (read: Democrats) to spite the entire country just because they couldn’t effectively communicate any accomplishments from the past two years. Of course, that’s us being cynical to a fault.

Thinking a little more practically, we agree with Joe on his AMT patch prediction. The rules are such a mess that it could stand a complete overhaul but we realize that’s nothing short of water into wine with less than two months left in 2010.

As far as the tax cuts are concerned, the shred of political capital that the members of Congress who will remain in DC have left simply cannot be lost. And besides, the President and Congress fundamentally agree on a major portion of the policy – that is, to extend tax cuts for the middle class. Again, this could be a pipe dream, but compromising on the extension of the cuts for the wealthiest Americans for two years seems like a simple solution (as bad of an idea as it is).

As for the estate tax – it’s toast. No one seems to give a shit about it except for Jon Kyl but once the first decrepit billionaire (who is unwilling to pull the plug on themselves) kicks the bucket in 2011, thus paying 55% tax on the estate, it will only take one phone call and Congress will spring into action.

Sigh. Place your bets.

Earlier:
After Tomorrow, a Bunch of Losers Will Have to Quit Their Pouting and Come Up with Some Tax Policy Solutions

Analyzing the Hiring Outlook for Accountants

Okay, so Roberto Half dropped their quarterly Financial Hiring Index and the message is that things are turning around for accounting and finance peeps looking for jobs out there. Their rationale? It’s the first net positive hiring outlook since the first quarter of 2009. Are we convinced that the ship is turning around? Hardly, dude. Let’s take a look at some of these details to see what’s is going on.


Good news: A net 1% (8% hiring, 7% firing) of CFOs surveyed plan to hire new employees in the last three months of the year. The fact that 84% of the CFOs surveyed don’t plan any hiring isn’t exactly thrilling but considering the last 2, wait 3 (going on 4?) years this, everyone is probably used to seeing even more dismal numbers.

Bad News: The hottest area of the country for hiring is the West South Central – defined as Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas. Bob tells us (via Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of RHI) that a net 6% of CFOs surveyed plan on hiring in Q4. This is due to the “Retail, manufacturing, healthcare, and oil and gas services companies in the region are rebuilding their teams,” sayeth Maximilian. Of course if you cut Texas out of the equation, that amounts to approximately 12 jobs total. If you include Texas, then it’s more like 112. If you were considering moving to TX, those 100 or so jobs will likely be taken by migrants from AR, LA and OK before Halloween.

What is actually promising is that net 5% of CFOs surveyed plan on hiring in the “Pacific” states – Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington (IOW, California). Whether this actually pans out is another matter entirely.

Overall, only three out of nine regions in the survey have net positive results.

The other problem is that the industries that are doing most of the hiring are manufacturing and wholesale sectors. That means the outlook for all you people in financial (includes insurance and real estate), business/professional services and construction is still looking bleak.

So what can we take from all this? Basically that the only certainty at this point is that no one has any idea what’s going on.

CFOs Reveal Fourth-Quarter Hiring Expectations [Robert Half via FINS]

Latest Grant Thornton Business Optimism Index Reaffirms That No One Has Any Idea What Is Going to Happen Next

Complete and utter meltdown to the point where are all fighting over chicken skins and muffin stumps? The next asset bubble to get us back to our mall-hopping weekends? It’s anybody’s guess really.

Grant Thornton LLP’s Business Optimism Index, based on a quarterly survey of U.S. business leaders, decreased significantly to 58.4 in August from a recent high of 67.6 in May. Business leaders are again becoming pessimistic, with only one-third (34%) expecting the U.S. economy to improve in the next six months, down significantly from 63% in May. The hiring outlook has also dimmed; only 38% of business leaders report that their companies will ramp up hiring in the next six months.


So the one thing we can count on is that unemployment will be hovering above 9% until at least the next presidential election. Got it.

Grant Thornton LLP Business Optimism Index drops 10 points [GT]

The JDA and Michael Panzner Discuss the Year Ahead

Thumbnail image for 2010.jpgEditor’s Note: Want more JDA? You can see all of her posts for GC here, her blog here and stalk her on Twitter.
The last time I spoke to Financial Armageddon’s Michael Panzner for Going Concern, it was about how to prepare for the worst (while not necessarily hopinin September of last year. This time around, it’s the beginning of the year so even though I’m late, it’s time to discuss the 2010 outlook.
Panzner can also be found writing at
When Giants Fall and Huffington Post and if you don’t know his bio, it’s here.
First of all, before we could get to anything I had to have him explain his strong dollar policy again:
“There are a number of reasons why I expect a technical rally in the dollar even though my long-term view remains quite negative,” he said, “The fact is that even if the fundamental outlook is poor, prices can still rise in the short run if too many people — speculators and investors — are short or if other factors temporarily gain in importance.”
This explains why he seemed spooked by recent market behaviors, like everything from March 2009 on. You know, when things started getting wonky. Panzner is a classy bastard so he’s not about to make conspiratorial statements about the behavior of markets but let’s just say his feeling is that they’re performing less rationally these days. No shit. Might be all that fishy stuff going on but who am I to speculate?


He points to massive speculation and gigantic stockpiling in commodities, specifically oil. Gee, wonder who is behind that. He recognizes that China is at least attempting to clamp down on speculation.
He also admits to having underestimated how people will behave with free money. I find that statement incredible; didn’t we see the houses, big screens, and Hummers? It was obvious at the time and it feels obvious now. “Last time they speculated like there was no tomorrow, they were worried tomorrow would never come,” he says. Again, this from the man who brought us Financial Armageddon.
Interestingly, Panzner says if he could do the book over, he would have better predicted the contagious nature of the financial crisis. It scared the shit out of me when I read it for the first time in 2008. It didn’t seem sluggish at all the way he’d imagined it. In fact, I’ve been waiting for the bottom to drop out for months now after seeing how he painted it.
As far as threats go, he pretty much agrees with most of what I identify as the largest (the Fed’s dumb behavior, sociopolitical pressures, blahblahblah) and adds a few. He’s with most of us who feel CRE still has to drop, which places additional pressure on smaller banks. There are also the usual suspects; conflicts in the Middle East putting pressure on energy markets and municipal debt problems. Birmingham, Alabama is not an isolated incident, in other words.
I know Caleb gets pissed when I write too much so I think we’re good on the economic outlook for now, lest he come flame me as Guest. Whatever. Back with Part 2 on Monday: What comes after?