Tribute to Bauhaus School


A tribute to the centenary of the establishment of the Germany’s Bauhaus school is being held in Tel Aviv.  Photographer Mozes Victor Konig is thrilled to have been able to check out the exhibition that is being held at the Diaghilev Hotel at The Gallery from June 13 until July 27.

“I read about Less Is More: Israeli Art Homage to Bauhaus in an entertainment journal online.  Given that my father’s mother originated from Weimar before escaping the Nazis, I thought it would be fitting that I visit the event that is happening in our land,” Konig explained.

“As an artist of sorts myself, I was most impressed to learn the history of the school which is very arts-centric, using both fine art and craft arts. Even more so because this type of art has had a very strong influence on design and architecture right here in Israel.”

Exhibit curator is Ilan Wigan and some of the participating artists include: Liat Elbling, Ohad Meromi and Nahum Tevet.



Growth of US Economy

There are so many conflicting reports about the growth – or lack thereof – of the US economy.  Here we take a look at some of those and try to present them in a way that the reader can come up with their own conclusion.

In Q1 2019, there was a growth of 3.1 percent in the economy. While there has been a slight deceleration in job hiring, jobs have still been added for more than 100 consecutive months. Plus this month we are seeing more expansion than even that of the 1990s boom, making it the longest stretch of time of continuous growth.

According to economist Todd G Buchholz:

“There is a dirty little secret in economics today. The United States has benefited – and continues to benefit – from the global slump.”

Even though there is currently a Brexit-fed-UK crisis; a French yellow-vest-unrest and a Chinese fear of foreign market bombardment, this global turbulence is not impacting America in the way one would imagine.

Indeed, in 2018 when the US economy grew by 2.9 percent it was unrivalled by its European counterpart that pulled in a mere 1.8 percent in economic growth.  Buckholz puts some of this down to the “sluggish GDP outside of America…low interest rates and weak inflation…puny looking yields on bank certificates of deposits (CDs).”

Bolstering Entrepreneurs

New business individuals and those wanting to become successful entrepreneurs often need a bit of a boost as they begin to navigate their way in their industry. It’s not easy breaking into it.  Here, we look at some of the recent endeavors that have been engineered by politicians and those who have been through the same thing of getting started and maintaining a new business

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren recent proposed legislation to allocate $7 billion in federal grants to aid entrepreneurs in minority groups looking to start their businesses.  Her idea is to administer the program by a newly created department – of Economic Development – which would replace the current Commerce Department. If created this agency would take on the work of both the Patent and Trademark Office and the Small Business Administration.  And it would develop into a Small Business Equity Fund which would be in charge of enforcing conflict of interest rules, assembling information on outcomes, etc.

Residents of Maine are used to small businesses; they are one of the driving forces of the economy.   They all began modestly also; a struggling individual trying to make money from an idea.  But now there is something to really help them.  Startup Maine is an organization and an event (that was held in Portland last week) on teaching would be entrepreneurs how to make themselves attractive to investors; how to begin a crowdfunding campaign; to create a company that makes a profit; to develop a firm that serves a community, etc. Startup Maine tries to network entrepreneurs with business investors and people who have had experience in this area.

In Louisville, a group has gotten together to facilitate women in their work toward becoming business leaders. Cliff Elgin Insurance created Network of Entrepreneurial Women nearly a decade ago. According to one of his clients Lynn Cooper:

“He saw a need for creating a group of women that could work together and help each other and network. [Being a female entrepreneur back then was very hard and] “When I first started going about five or six years ago it was a lot of men in suits and it was very intimidating.”

Today the organization focuses on networking and helping the entrepreneur individually, also trying to help them find a work-home balance. Members meet once a month.

Increase in Retail Spending

May 2019 saw an escalation in spending by US shoppers.  This had provided “critical fuel for the U.S. economy’s continued expansion despite trade tensions and slowing global growth.”  According to the US Commerce Department, the increase in retail stores was 0.5 percent from April to May.  There was an increase in April too which was slightly higher than the department’s estimate.  All of these figures show that household spending is high and on the up.

Other good news is that almost all categories (in particular auto sales at 0.7 percent) showed improvement and real gains.  There were some declines (within the food and beverage industry, as well as apparel, department stores and the like) but overall the message was growth.  Electronic stores possibly had one of the best months with an impressive growth of 1.1 percent in May. Health, wellness and personal care jumped too.  Another high gainer was “nonstore” (online, catalogue, direct) retail sales, with a statistic growth of 1.4 percent for May.

According to a recent Market Watch article, this:

“may allow the Federal Reserve to wait a bit before cutting interest rates. After the weak job report for May, some economists thought the Fed might ease as soon as next week to bolster what was perceived as a slowing economy. The market is now expecting the Fed to cut rates in July. Some prominent economists, like the team at Goldman Sachs, think expectations of a rate cut over overdone and the central bank will remain on hold this year.”

The hope of course was that this trend would continue but earlier this month it seemed that “renewed trade tensions tapered optimism and smaller gains in employment suggested slower economic growth.”

US Entrepreneurial Scene: Ahead of EU

US-EU

When we look at the US against the backdrop of Europe, historically we see that America way surpasses Europe.  In size, economy, revenue, agriculture, and a whole variety of other industries.  How true is that today?  How far is Europe lagging behind?  In what areas is America making less progress than it should, pro-rata?  Here, we address some of these issues briefly.

A recent survey found that technologically speaking, the US (and China) is still way surpassing with Europe with the latter’s tech firms being valued at $240 billion since 2000 and America’s at $1,370 billion during the same time frame.  That is a gap of 31 percent.

But can we really blame Europe?  The region hardly has even close to the type of hedge funding rounds commonplace to Silicon Valley.  Ultimately no matter how great the startup idea for a company is, money talks.  And if that is significantly lacking then there is only so far a firm can go. Europeans also seem far more skeptical about handing over a check than their US counterparts.  They are more cautious with their money.  The US seemingly has a much easier time when it comes to investing.

It does not have to be like this though. And Europe is responding to change.  One example of this is TransferWise.  The UK-based money transfer service established in 2011 by Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus is taking over The Tea Building in Shoreditch and has become extremely successful at fundraising.  Both co-founders are European, hailing from Estonia so one can’t put this fast movement down to US-genes. 

While this is not the only example of successful European technology startups there is reason to believe that they do have to up their game – especially their fundraising techniques if they want to remain on the map within the next few decades.

Small Business Week

Small Business Week (held from May 5-May 11 this year) is organized by the US Small Business administration.  established in 1983 as a “national recognition event”, from then until now it is a chance for every American to shop local.

But it is so much  more than that.  this year for example, everyone was invited to participate in a free virtual conference over the first two days. in conjunction with SCORE Association, the SBA gave people the opportunity to network with other business owners, connect with industry experts and be involved in a hands on conference without having to actually leave their homes. Other events included: Small Business Week Hackathon; the National Awards Ceremonies and the NSBW Twitter chat.

During this week individuals are also encouraged to give small businesses attention and respect as well as buying their services/products.  America comprises over 30 million small businesses, providing jobs for 59 million Americans.  This is over a third of the entire workforce in the country and accounts for approximately 44 percent of the US GDP.

And Trump is a big supporter also.  He said his administration is: 

“A strong ally and advocate of small businesses and their ability to help America reach its full economic potential.”

Which is supported by the provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which lets small business owners deduct 20 percent from their taxable business income. Trump also issued Executive Order 13771 (E.O. 13771): “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs [requiring] For every new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination. [In addition] The cost of planned regulations [must] be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” 

A Thriving US Economy

America’s economy is thriving. Or so the numbers tell us.  Here we take a look at some of the figuresthat help us feel optimistic for the future of the US economy.

  1. In Q1 2019, there was an annual growth of3.2 percent.
  2. At the start of Q2 2019, the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent(lowest it has been in the last five decades).  
  3. Real wagesof the average Joe in the street increased by 3.2 percent(first time in over 10 years).
  4. Inflationis lower than the 2 percent target at 1.6 percent.
  5. 5.4m+ new jobshave been added since January 2017.

According toYum Brands CEO Greg Creed:

“Obviously the US economy is in pretty good shape. But I also do think that there is some sort of bifurcation going on in the marketplace. There are certainly people making a lot of money, there are certainly people for whom value will remain incredibly important.” 

Although it should also be noted that prices are rising. In the restaurant industry – often in line with the increase in labor costs due to the law on the escalated minimum wage – the large chains are elevating their prices likewise.

More generally, prices are rising in the restaurant industry as labor costs increase with higher minimum wages and a more competitive labor market. McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Chipotle all mentioned raising prices in the most recent quarter during calls with investors.   At the same time, the middle class is becoming smaller.  The Pew Research Centerfound 50 percent of Americans to be in the middle class; quite a drop from the 61 percent figure of 1971.  

There is still of course the quite dramatic gap between top and bottom earners vis-à-vis income increase.  In 2017 the bottom fifth of the population witnessed a very minor increase (2.7 percent belowpre-recession figures) in their income whereas the top fifth enjoyed a much higher one (8.7 percent higherthan pre-recession figures).

Bolstering America’s Economy Through Technology

Technology is good for the economy

Technology is good for so many aspects of society.  One of them is preservation and growth of an economy.  In a new book written by MIT economists Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson entitled, ‘Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream, the two make the case for the benefits of investing in bolstering technology into the economy.

They argue that as well as strengthening growth, supplementing investment in science results in better job opportunities and higher wages.  This is especially useful now when so many Americans believe their salaries are not conducive to their everyday expenses.  Johnson said:

“Good jobs are for MIT graduates, but they’re also for people who don’t finish college. They’re for people who drop out of high school. There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety across the country.”

According to Bloomberg’s US State Innovation Index, California is America’s “most innovative economy” based on the following factors:

  1. STEM jobs
  2. R&D
  3. Firms in technology
  4. Productivity
  5. Individuals who have science/engineering degrees.

Perhaps therefore not surprisingly – supporting Johnson and Gruber’s theory – a CNBC article found that California accounted for almost ¾ of non-farm jobs created in America in February; an additional 14,600 (nonfarm) jobs were added by the state last  month; a report found that nonfarm payrolls in America increased by 20,000 jobs. Furthermore, Forbes contributor Mike Montgomery found that “technology can help prevent future California wildfires.” So there really is a lot to be said in favor of the benefits of technology for a state (and country’s) economic welfare.