“If six turned out to be nine, I don’t mind…”
Jimi Hendrix wrote this song fifty years ago, at a time when the United States, if not the world, was being turned upside down. As I watched Donald J. Trump being inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States, I couldn’t help but see many similarities between 1967 and today. Factionalism, racism, protests, unpopular skirmishes abroad, division, feelings of being left behind. The list could be expanded exponentially, but the parallels are striking.
To lend a bit of much needed humor to Friday’s affair, here’s what I learned:
- President Trump’s first executive order should have been mandating dance lessons for Vice President Pence and his wife.
- First Lady Melania Trump is the most stunning Stepford Wife ever.
- Given his closeness with the Kennedy administration, Frank Sinatra was probably spinning in his grave as the Trumps selected “My Way” for their theme at the Inaugural Balls.
- The pro-marijuana group of protestors should have shared their wares with the rest of the anti-Trump attendees.
- How is a rioter supposed to drink a refreshing latte when the windows of Starbucks have been smashed?
President Trump’s address Friday was brief, but extremely stark. It sounded more like a campaign stump speech than an invitation to reconciliation. The use of the word “carnage” to describe the state of our country seemed more than a bit extreme. The concept of “Only America First” is at minimum isolationist and exclusionary.
Reactions around the world ranged from fear to warm embrace. Western Europe almost unanimously decried the speech. The Chinese government paper’s headline was “prepare for the worst”. Russians celebrated with champagne and vodka toasts. North Korea announced the development of a new long range nuclear missile.
President Trump inherits a mandate that is not as strong as he would like to believe. He received a minority of the popular vote, and comes into office with the lowest approval rating of any incoming leader. Over sixty Democrats boycotted the inauguration, and there are several Republicans who are not on the same philosophical page. Trump’s cabinet has few inspired choices. The Senate confirmation hearings demonstrated that several candidates were simply not prepared for prime time.
Where do things go from here? To be honest, I have little clue. Trump’s agenda has a wide scope, with perceived positives and negatives. He has already put the wheels in motion to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but what will its replacement be? What will immigration policies look like? Will he repeal long standing trade alliances? Will he trust the intelligence agencies? What will be the extent of tax reform? How will he create the millions of jobs that he has promised? Will he flex America’s military muscle and start a fracas somewhere? Obviously, there are plenty more questions at this juncture than answers. Therefore, I guess that we’ll just have to wait and see.
As I mentioned in my last missive, I feel that Trump’s economic agenda is more pro-growth than Hillary Clinton’s would have been. This hopefully will be a positive for equities, but policies must be balanced; otherwise, we could see a dramatic further ballooning of the national debt and significant inflation. I’m feeling a bit like an offensive rebounder in basketball. We’ll have to watch the shots that are thrown at the basket, and react accordingly.
I’ve stressed that it’s critical that we separate our feelings (pro or con) for the new administration from our long-term view of portfolio growth. My sense of things is that we’ll be able to perceive the direction of affairs within the next few months. Through all of the turmoil, I remain cautiously optimistic, but will be vigilant.
The bottom line is that the Electoral College has spoken, and we’re embarking on a Brave New World. Whether six will turn into nine is unknown. Whether we’ll trend toward Aldous Huxley’s dystopia is also unknown. This election has demonstrated that for many Americans, we might already be there.
I will be out of the country until early February. No, I won’t be looking at real estate in Toronto or Vancouver. We’re simply taking a break before the throes of personal income tax season erupt. I’ll have e-mail access, though spotty, so please feel free to give me your comments and thoughts. If you need anything while I’m away, Kelley, RC, Angie, and Christine are onboard to assist. As far as living in Trump World is concerned, I’ll give the same advice that I give to students before we tape our TV quiz show, “Don’t forget to breathe.”
The opinions expressed in this letter are those of William Schiffman and should not be construed as specific investment advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, no representation is made to its completeness or accuracy. All economic and performance information is historical and not indicative of future results.
Diversification cannot assure a profit or guarantee against a loss.