Hoarding stuff until your home is a health hazard and your family and neighbors hate you isn’t only a TV “reality”. Perhaps 1 million US citizens are prey to the hoarding compulsion on one estimate, fighting the urge to let everything just keep piling up.
“Hoarding and anxiety,” according to one fighting sufferer, “go hand-in-hand. Fear keeps us from letting go of objects we don’t need.” Overcoming that fear is a tough job, however. “Clean-up usually provokes intense anxiety,” says another report, noting that hoarding stems variously from dementia, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder amongst other deep-seated troubles.
“Anyone helping the hoarder – even a professional cleanup crew – should be gentle, always caring and encourage the person to deep breathe and relax.” Which sounds fair enough given the anxieties involved. But what about shouting at the sufferer instead?
“Companies’ growing cash piles are irking shareholders and stunting growth,” said the Financial Times in late January. “Politicians and policymakers are going to have to ask the question,” added David Bowers of Absolute Strategy Research, wagging his finger – “How much longer are we going to allow companies to run themselves for cash?”
Barely a fortnight later, Martin Wolf was at it in the very same pages. “Britain needs to whittle down corporate cash piles,” Wolf declared. “If the fiscal deficit is to disappear…there needs to be a mixture of lower profits, higher investment, and significantly smaller current account deficits,” he went on, quoting Andrew Smithers of Smithers & Co. “Increases in government investment and private housebuilding would also help,” said Wolf, parroting the Anglo-Saxon post-war consensus.
This attack on corporate cash hoarders is new, however. Because corporate cash hoarding is so new, it’s barely noticeable.
“Highly indebted UK households should not run large deficits again,” said Wolf. Or to quote The Times just this week, “Consumers cannot lead recovery. Britain needs business to stop ‘stashing the cash’.”
Put another way, “Companies must stop hoarding cash and start investing instead,” says Will Hutton in The Guardian, quoting this week’s same press release from the same think-tank, Ernst & Young’s ITEM Club. “David Cameron and George Osborne have still not developed a full-throated industrial policy that would encourage companies to spend money on investment and innovation.”
“Business investment has picked up nicely in the US,” says ITEM’s chief economic advisor, Peter Spencer, apparently ignoring the huge $1.24 trillion hoarded by US corporates by the end of 2011 – more than half of it outside Uncle Sam’s clutches according to Moody’s, who compiled the data, as emerging-market growth plus onerous US tax treatment drives businesses to avoid remitting profits back home.