The dollar menu and a 2% economy

 In two weeks, I will shift gears from a 2% economy here in the United States to a 7.8% economy, India. In a recent article in Time, columnist Rana Foroohar says the  next five years in America are tough. Foroohar adds that half of all Americans can’t find $2,000 in 30 days without selling their stuff. Sounds grim, right?

The truth is, yes. Unless the housing crisis gets fixed, job creation will be at a standstill and based on a report from McKinsey Global Institute, it will take five years for the U.S. to have a normal unemployment picture (5% from the current9.1%). There are a half billion middle class outside the United States that can do the jobs being done here. Brazil, India and China are churning out 70 million new middle class workers and consumers every year. A recent report from rating agency Crisil says India has 62,000 super-rich households with a combined wealth of $1 trillion. In five years, this is expected to grow to $5.3 trillion. This is more than double the $2 trillion sitting in the balance sheets of American companies now. Very few of them are investing locally. Instead, they prefer investing where they can find adequate talent and consumers.

The way out of this mess is not easy and Foroohar like others says education is the only way out. She says four-year liberal arts colleges are becoming more irrelevant to what the economy needs todayand there should be greater emphasis  on science and technology.

She also suggests that the U.S. needs to create a concrete industrial policy that can bring different sides together to solve this problem, something similar to what the Germans have.

Understanding the soul of Bill Gates

Bill Gates is all about innovation for the poor. Finding out new ways to eradicate malaria, help inner city children and eradicate polio in the next three to five years. And, at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he says his focus is on helping the poorest with health innovations. How did he transition from a software guy to a philanthropist? In this recent interview, Gates talks about similarities that transcend both professions and major differences. For instance, in philanthropy he needs to articulate the cause and the effect, the show and the tell, in simple terms the impact of what happened with a donors money.

Can a single man like Bill Gates make such a significant difference in the world? Well, in just 3 years polio will be completely eradicated from the face of the earth. What began as 125 countries having polio has now been reduced to just four. Understanding the soul of a philanthropist like Bill Gates, one who loves mankind, is complex.

In their book, The Art of Giving, Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon (Jossey-Bass 2009) says: “Philanthropy isn’t a matter of just doing the right thing; it is a matter of doing the right thing for you. If your heart isn’t in it, you’re likely to get bored, distracted and listless, and your philanthropic enterprise will end up in the doldrums.” A very true statement, but how many times do we think about this when we cut a check to a charity of our choice?

Bronfman & Solomon draw out a simple equilateral triangle to show a basic model of philanthropy. Each side of the equilateral triangle asks three questions: Why (why do you want to give?); What? (what is your primary area of interest?); and How? (what is the primary mechanism by which you want to give?). Take this equilateral triangle and we could dissect Gates’ philanthropic soul. Innovation in health care for the poor is his motive, his primary area of interest is healthcare and his mechanism is through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

So, our motives to give are different and we may not know about it soon enough.  As an ancient Buddhist saying goes: “Keep your mind open, the moment of clarity will come.” It did for Bill Gates. How about yours? Just keep waiting.