CEOs as "Cockeyed Optimists"

They feel better about the economy, but what about the rest of us?

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“I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
 that we're done and we might as well be dead.
 But I'm only a cockeyed optimist
 and I can't get it into my head.” – Nellie Forbush, South Pacific.

Business executives in Central Virginia are singing the same tune, according to a recent survey by the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond.

The 62 chief executives polled in last year’s fourth quarter report “strong optimism” about their chances to make more money, the study says. Three-quarters of them expect money to flow in the next six months.

“All signs are pointing toward a strong 2015 for small business in Virginia,” says Scot McRoberts, executive director of the Virginia Council of CEOs. (Note: the Robins School did not provide a link to their report.)

Good for them, but what about the trickle down? According to figures in the today's Wall Street Journal, median household income continues its downward slide from $54,059 in 2007 to about $51,939 now.

In his Jan. 20 State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama lauded the brightening economic picture and said it was time to help the beleaguered middle class. He wants new tax laws that drain money from the elite one-percenters in favor of the rest of us.

I think it’s about time, since the growing disparities in income (along with way oversized CEO compensation) spell bad news for the future. The country got where it has on the backs of the middle class.

As for Central Virginia executives, I say, “bully for you.” The problem is that since the Great Recession, business leaders have squeaked by through layoffs of their workers. Or, they take full-time workers with benefits and make them untethered part-time workers with much lower income.

Another bugaboo – chief executives have been hording cash since the crash. It isn’t as if they have no money. They do, but they have been too scared to spend it on investments and hiring or taking back the workers they got rid of.

Let’s hope Nurse Forbush has it right.

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