Chart of the Decade: Corporations are Pessimistic About Future Growth


Ezra Klein posted this chart today showing the steady accumulation of corporate cash and reserves over the past 15 years. I’d like to nominate it for chart of the decade or something. “Why corporations are holding so much more cash is an interesting mystery,” says Ezra, but I think it’s the key mystery of the past couple of decades. Total liquid assets held by nonfinancial corporations have increased from 7.7 percent of GDP to 11.3 percent of GDP.

Why? Why are corporations increasingly unable to find anything interesting to do with their cash in the real world? Why are they implicitly so pessimistic about opportunities for future growth? Is this the financial smoking gun for Tyler Cowen’s “great stagnation” thesis?

I’m not sure. But for 15 years the people with money to bet have been betting that they’ll get better returns investing in financial instruments than they will by investing in expansion of existing products and the invention of new ones. Until we figure out why, we’re going to be stuck with a combination of sluggish growth and financial bubbles as far as the eye can see.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate