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  • Apple's $62.9 billion stock buyback program called a bad investment in new report

    The poor are not so poor as they were a generation ago.

    The video is describing world-wide macro trends.  The discussion is really about US-centric trends.

    Some historical perspective: The current acceptance that unlimited stock buybacks is ‘healthy’ for the economy or is a sign of a healthy company, or even good in the long-term for investors (rather than speculators) is a fallacy begun in the 1970s.  This askew disconnect began with the focused opinion theory of Milton Friedman, who promoted the concept that corporations have but one party to whom they answer, the 'owners'. Prior to that, much of corporate culture considered all the stake-holders: the owners, management and the rest of the employee workforce, the customers, the vendors and the community.

    A consultancy called McKinsey ran with that idea, selling their opinions to receptive BODs and C-suite execs. McKinsey became the go-to corporate advisors for squeezing profits and redirecting resources to the shareholders alone. Counseling companies on how to be more 'efficient', how to cut benefits and payroll, how to maximize lifespans of existing infrastructure (is it more cost effective to modernize or allow a facility/process to run until it rusts out from under), how to offshore labor, technology support and manufacturing, and how to use corporate resources to influence government regulation. This came to a climax when lobbyists (gee, I wonder who) convinced the neo-cons overseeing the SEC in '83 to allow unfettered stock buybacks by public companies. [The next time a politician bloviates about the evils of regulation and promotes budget cuts to regulatory staff, look to see who owns him or her.]

    Rather than profits being reinvested in wages, or R&D, or infrastructure, companies have for 4 decades been following the McKinsey method, reinforced by famous graduate 'Schools of Business' as how 'modern companies operate'. Stock buybacks in particular have been toxic. Many C-suiters and BODs benefit directly, as they have both stock options and performance bonuses. Bonuses are often structured based on one major metric: the EPS improvement during a mgmt's reign. If the EPS goes up, the bonus metrics are made --, regardless of whether the share prices actually rise in the long-term. Anyone can do the math: buy back a bunch of stocks, and even if the share price hasn't moved a penny, EPS rises. Bonus!  Measured quarterly, not long-term.

    Usually, share prices do rise on these artificial inflations due in part from the temporary 'good news' cycle that a company was profitable enough to buy back stocks. Such is the reasoning of Wall Street press. Note that previous to stock buybacks, more of that profit would have been funneled into dividends -- but we can't have that since dividends are taxable to the shareholder. Buybacks defer the tax obligation to when the shares are ultimately sold.  And that's risky, as we are seeing, as share value can plummet regardless of the sound foundations of a company due to outside market behavior.  I worked for a company of 300k employees that earmarked $24Billion+ to three years of buybacks. If mgmt had earmarked HALF of that money to raises, it would have been a $6.50/hr increase for each person over the same period.  All potential taxable income for governments and a lot of potential spend by a broad population that doesn't happen.  They'd still buy back $12Bil. McKinsey may be the most powerful consultancy ever, yet almost no one has heard of them.