The Alan and Jack show…
Normally, I try to avoid most conferences. But the invite to the World Business Forum taking place today and tomorrow seemed worth the train ride, especially given the two back-to-back speakers this morning: Alan Greenspan and Jack Welch. Indeed, during the Q&A with Welch, one questioner noted that he had traveled quite a bit further — from Mauritus — and that it took him 24 hours to get there, just so he could ask Welch a question about expanding economic opportunities in his country. (Portfolio has the details of Welch’s response here).
Of course, neither Greenspan nor Welch lack opportunities to get their thoughts heard and both managed to mention their recent books several times in front of the audience of 5,000. But it was their respective thoughts on the economy that caught my attention. Welch, who was “interviewed” by Maria Bartiromo ticked off a bunch of stats to show how well the economy was doing — Costco’s (COST) sales were up, he noted several times — sounding not unlike many of the Republican candidates for President that Bartiromo had questioned the night before in Dearborn, Mich. “And yet, there’s so much angst out there,” Maria said. Jack wasted no time blaming the media. “You create that. There’s so many media outlets all looking for an angle that they can pound out the slightest bit of negative news.” And then Jack finished by saying Maria, sounding almost as if he was going to break into the song from West Side Story.
As for Alan, who kicked off the conference, the subprime mess was a key topic. “The critical issue is what is going to happen to home prices ‘— not just in US but everywhere else. Home prices flattening out ‘— in the US, they’ve started to come down ‘— and that puts pressures on consumption.” But Greenspan refused to say how bad things might get. “Nobody knows because we’ve never had any experience is how bad it will be.”
Definitely worth the train ride. Definitely not worth 48 hours on a plane.