Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine, provided a positive — yet qualified — take on the current state of the U.S. economy as keynote speaker during the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) Annual Business Meeting Wednesday
(June 9) as a wrap-up to formal Committee Week meetings.
At the outset, he summarized, “We are in a recovery and it’s exceedingly uneven.”
He elaborated over the next 30 minutes, tracing how the U.S. economy came tumbling down, starting in December 2007, and argued that “the recession shouldn’t have been worse than the recession of 1990,” which lasted seven months. “This one is worse due to government regulatory failure,” he contended.
Karlgaard likened the current recovery to “two steps forward, one step back” and forecasted real economic growth this year in the 2% to 2 1/2% range with disparities from region to region.
He interrupted his economic remarks to comment that Indiana state government is well run, adding, “I’m going to go out on a limb and say (Ind. Gov.) Mitch Daniels will be the next president of the United States.” He said Daniels “would be a good candidate,” calling him “a real good, pro-growth guy.”
Drawing upon his observations about future trends in business, he said RV companies in particular will do well if they are:
- Good at design. “Really good design will leap out (at consumers) and prevail,” he said.
- Have mastered their supply chain.
On the demand side, he estimated that 70 million of the nation’s 77 million Baby Boomers “have woefully underfunded their retirement,” which “could be good news for the RV industry” as Baby Boomers “pull the real estate card” and sell their vacation homes and turn to RVs instead.
He also speculated that Americans’ growing interest in health and fitness will help the RV industry as workers of retirement age opt to work part-time and travel the country in their RVs.
Finally, he suggested that people will look to companies and products with a purpose built on moral foundations. “A company (or industry) that allows me to make family memories – it’s golden for customers, suppliers and regulators,” he said.
In a short question and answer period, Karlgaard predicted the Republicans will gain 50 to 60 seats and gain control of the U. S. House in the November elections, while winning eight seats in the Senate but fall short of winning that chamber.
This outcome will force President Obama to decide whether he wishes to continue what Karlgaard asserted is a “destructive, anti-enterprise” campaign or move closer to the political center like President Clinton did in 1994 when the GOP gained control of the House.
As for the course of oil prices, Karlgaard surmised that oil will trade in the $60 to $100 per barrel range for the foreseeable future.