Pessimism and the Press

| Business Miscellaneous

By Mike Alerding     I am an accountant. There, I said it, I am an accountant. Accordingly, I have a natural inclination to pay attention to numbers when I read reports in the paper (yes, I still read the written word each morning religiously – I still believe it is good to “feel” what you read) and online. I can’t help it. I am drawn to numerical values and conclusions and find myself questioning oddities and wondering why. Why, for example, does the press in this country find ways to make most numbers signal some form of pessimism. I just wonder…/p>

Yesterday online and this morning in the paper, I saw a headline that read, “Modest Rise in Holiday Shopping” with a subtitle of “Experts: 4.1% Predicted Uptick will Trail Sales Growth in 2010, ‘11″. My accountant’s mind first reaction to this was, why were the words “modest” and “trail” used in reporting something that, by and large, is very positive, especially in a period where inflation is stabilized, resulting in real growth of over 4%? I have to investigate why this is such a negative event.

I read the article and looked at the nifty little charts that the USA Today folks attach to their articles when they are trying to make a point or emphasize more negative news. As it turns out, actual growth in 2010 and 2011 was a little over 5% in each year. During the most dismal high recession years of 2008 and 2009, there was little or no growth in spending – negative 4% in 2008 and less than 1% positive growth in 2009. So I looked further, going back a decade and looking at the actual growth rates, noting that if 2012 does come in at 4.1%, it will represent a 20% increase over the average growth rate during the past decade, which included some pretty positive growth years in the early part of the decade.

Having read and analyzed this a bit further, I felt better and thought of a new headline and new subtitle that might get readers’ attention in a bit more positive way: “Retailers Rejoice – Holiday Shopping Expected to Rise Sharply” with a subtitle of “2012 Retail Sales Expected to Increase 20+% over Average for Decade.”

We can’t expect our attitudes toward our economy or anything else in life to improve if all we hear is half truths tainted in a negative way. The facts of this story are not going to change our economic plight or return our economy to where it once was, but each step along the way helps to stabilize our belief in our system and the free market society in which we live. On the other hand, continuing to infuse negative images in readers’ minds eventually wears down confidence and belief that we can return to a place where there are jobs for all who want them and income for those who work for it. It all starts at the top – sales – and in my view, an increase in retail sales in 2012 is a good first step. Let’s not mock it – let’s celebrate something positive.

Mike is a co-founder and Senior Director at Alerding CPA Group, an Indianapolis-based public accounting firm. Visit our website:

This post was written by:

Michael Alerding, CPA
Senior Director

Mike has over 40 years of experience in public accounting. He is a prior columnist for The Indianapolis Business Journal and serves on multiple boards throughout Indianapolis. He currently focuses his time on litigation support, business valuations, succession planning consulting and audit and accounting engagements.
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