BUSINESS

Lessons Learned Too Late: Seven And A Half Things To Know

10/31/2012 08:05 am ET

First off, apologies to all for the lack of a newsletter yesterday, due to the lack of a functioning system on which to publish the newsletter. Most of yesterday's news was storm-related in any event, and you hopefully got much of that info from our tireless Huffington Post live-bloggers before the site went briefly dark in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.

And let's take a moment to thank the first-responders who have risked life and limb to save ours. They're still out there, saving lives. You can help, by donating to the Red Cross here or by texting "REDCROSS" to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. For many more ways to help, check in with our constantly-updating "How to Help" guide.

Finally, a word for the weather wizards who created the frighteningly good models that predicted the storm's path and force with such accuracy. How many lives did they save? Hundreds? Thousands? And many more will be saved in the future because we know now to listen: When they say a big storm is coming, you can bet a big storm is probably coming.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled foolishness:

Thing One: Recovery And Reflection: The cleanup from Sandy has begun, along with the reflection and lesson-learning -- some of it too late.

At last count, the death toll from Sandy had risen to at least 50 people in the U.S. and more than 125 people total, including 52 in Haiti. More than 8 million Americans are without power at the moment, and hundreds of thousands more are displaced from homes that may not be there when they return. It could be several days before power is restored to New York City and other parts of the Northeast. It could also be days before flights resume out of area airports, though some limited train service has been restored.

All of this devastation is sure to hurt economic growth in the short term, notes the Wall Street Journal, "disrupting commerce in the nation's most-populous region, destroying billions of dollars' worth of property and likely boosting gasoline prices." One estimate puts the total damages of the storm at $50 billion, writes Bonnie Kavoussi of the Huffington Post. Ultimately, though, the economic impact may be short-lived, Bonnie notes, as rebuilding and delayed activity could boost growth later.

That's cold comfort for the people whose lives have been shattered -- particularly since some of the damage could have been averted. New York is only now thinking seriously about putting up defenses to the sort of storm surges that could well become far too normal in the decades ahead. The New York Times writes that there have been warnings for years that the city was at danger of devastating flooding, but the cost of doing anything about it was too high. The cost of not doing anything about it turns out to have been far higher.

Thing Two: Who Needs FEMA Anyway? In another example of lack of foresight, FEMA, the much-maligned government agency that is helping pull the Northeast back from disaster, will almost certainly lose some of its funding next year, the Washington Post's Suzy Khimm notes. It faces a 3 percent budget cut in a second Obama term and a 40 percent budget cut, give or take, in a possible presidency of Mitt Romney -- who has in the past suggested he might rather do away with FEMA altogether, or maybe even privatize it. He ignored repeated questions about FEMA yesterday at a "relief event" in Ohio. New Jersey's Republican Governor and occasional Romney surrogate Chris Christie appears to have a different view of the need for help from the federal government, repeatedly praising President Obama yesterday for his disaster response. Obama will tour the Jersey Shore with Christie today. It's good politics for both of them, of course, but it also reflects a philosophy of governance that is at issue in the election less than a week away: There are some things the states and/or private enterprise can't do, and those things, like wars and relief from epic disasters, may require the shared sacrifice of the whole nation.

Thing Three: Stocks To Cross Fingers, Resume Trading: And finally in our tour of foresight failure, there's the stock market. Stocks are due to resume trading today after a two-day hiatus that understandably has many questioning why -- long after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Blackout of 2003 -- there is not a tried-and-tested backup plan for stock trading in the United States in the event New York City is unexpectedly offline. Why not have a backup trading floor in Omaha, for example? Have Warren Buffett ring the opening bell, for extra confidence? As for today's trading, keep in mind that it's the last day of the month, two days ahead of the critical jobs report and there's a presidential election less than a week away. We are raising the "FUBAR market" threat level to "high."

Thing Four: It's Tim Cook's World Now: The only other major business-news event we missed by not having a newsletter yesterday was the defenestration at Apple of a couple of key players: mobile-software chief Scott Forstall and retail head John Browett. Forstall had refused to apologize for the Apple Maps fiasco, and according to the Wall Street Journal he clashed often with Apple's head of hardware design. Browett, meanwhile, had only been hired six months ago. The moves put Tim Cook's mark on a post-Steve Jobs Apple, the WSJ writes. But they also leave big holes in the company's executive ranks and questions about Cook's leadership.

Thing Five: Auto Executives Fact-Check Political Ad: When he's not busy collecting canned goods in Ohio, Mitt Romney is running ads in Ohio accusing President Obama of somehow forcing American auto makers to ship jobs to China, or something like that. The CEOs of a couple of those auto makers, Chrysler and General Motors, lashed out at Romney yesterday, saying his claims were misleading.

Thing Six: More Bad News For Barclays: Barclays just can't give itself a break. The British bank this morning reported that whopping charges for mis-selling insurance had pulled its quarterly profit down 23 percent from a year ago and said it was the subject of still more regulatory investigations in the U.S. and U.K. Its shares fell 5 percent. Barclays earlier this year paid about $450 million to settle charges its bankers manipulated Libor.

Thing Seven: Darth Vader + Mickey Mouse: Walt Disney is paying about $4 billion to buy Lucasfilm, owned by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, who founded the company in 1971. The companies also announced new "Star Wars" sequels, starting with an Episode 7, due in 2015. Twelve-year-old me is very excited about this news.

Thing Seven And One Half: In Case You Missed It: David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon remind us that the show must go on.

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Calendar Du Jour (Weather Permitting):

Economic Data:

9:45 a.m. ET: Chicago PMI for October

Corporate Earnings:

MasterCard

MetLife

Visa

Heard On The Tweets:

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Also on HuffPost:

Superstorm Sandy: Photos From October 30, 2012

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