>as you know, are a piddling portion of overall stock returns and are being
>replaced by stock bybacks.
Not true at all. Over the long term dividends have been a very important part of stock returns. It's only in the last decade or so, as this giddy bull market has pushed valuations to record levels, that dividends have become "piddling." Here are the long-term averages (based on the S&P 500 and Cowles Commission indexes, with pre-1871 data from Yale finance prof William Goetzmann's efforts in "financial archaeology"):
AVERAGE ANNUAL RETURNS, U.S. STOCKS
price dividend 1825-1998 4.5 5.5 1900-1998 6.6 4.4
1900-1980 5.0 4.7
1980-1998 13.8 3.5