Monday, April 17, 2017

The First 100 Days

As we close in on the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency, I imagine there will be much commentary. pro and con, as to how President Trump has performed.  Of course, the tone of those opinions will vary widely, depending on the news source one is inclined to follow.  I have been attempting, lately, to watch such a variety of news channels, from BBC America to MSNBC to Fox News, and have found it an interesting experiment in how the various news/opinion outlets choose their news topics, report on said topics, gather "experts" to convey certain spins on these topics, and even what news "crawls" accompany the reporting of these topics.  I would imagine that if, as it is believed, our TV and radio signals are circulating throughout the solar system, and beyond, there may be some rather confused aliens trying to figure the happenings on the third rock from our sun.

For me, it has been not as bad as I imagined, and far worse than I expected.

On the positive side, the sun continues to rise in the east, and set in the west, although I think it safe to predict that Sean Spicer may disagree with that "fact" at some future point in his tortured reign as White House press secretary.  Other positives include Trump's choice of retired General James Mattis as Defense Secretary, H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor, John Kelley as Homeland Security Secretary, Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary, and Linda McMahon (despite my belief that wrestling is an entertainment sport, not a competitive one) to head the Small Business Administration.

I am especially happy, and hopeful, that Mattis and McMaster will provide the adult viewpoint in the room when truly serious and consequential discussions take place about the use of military and nuclear force to resolve our problems.

As an investor in Wall Street to fund my retirement, it has been a nice run up since the election, as most of our portfolios should demonstrate.  Of course, Wall Street generally favors a GOP president under the guise that the GOP is more business friendly than the Dems, but history shows that the stock market does not perform better with a republican in the White House.  In this case, however, it is clear that Trump's campaign rhetoric excoriating job killing regulation, and his cabinet choices which represent a slice of the richest men and women in America, makes Wall Street more inclined to expect a more business friendly administration, hence the 15% improvement since the November election.  While I hope that stocks might, if not continue their incredible rebound since the low of 6626 on March 9, 2009, at least mostly maintain their value, it is hard to imagine that an over 300% increase in 8 years is not bound to hit a speed bump sometime soon.

Lastly, it appears that President Trump's foreign affairs inexperience, and overall reactionary modus operandi may be serving him well.  As opposed to Obama's more thoughtful and calculated approach to handling crisis situations, Trump seems to have generated more attention from our enemies with his willingness to use military force to send a message.  Perhaps it is merely because the victims of his decisions had grown used to getting away with atrocities, perhaps because the only way to fight fire is with fire, but Trump has gained some credibility, domestically as well as internationally, with his latest decisions.  Hopefully, those who were on the receiving end of our big stick will not choose to continue to test his resolve, and up the ante, banking on our reluctance to use the ultimate weapons of mass destruction at his fingertips.  

On the negative side is virtually every other cabinet pick.  From climate change denier Scott Pruitt heading the EPA to school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as head of the Department of Education to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who has publicly decried the Affordable Care Act but was not able to present a replacement that his own party could pass to foreclosure king Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, the Trump cabinet is loaded with people whose perspective of the direction America must take is virtually the exact opposite of my own.

And, to top it off, Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.  Zero diplomatic experience, serious business ties with Russia, whom in case you forgot, is the money behind Bashar Al-Assad, Syria's president and competition (in Spicer's world) for worst man in history.  At this point, no one really knows if there was any quid pro quo between some of Trump's campaign officers and the Russian government, but it is certainly not in question that there is some lots of circumstantial evidence as well as a serious of suspicious coincidences.

But worse, if we accept the fact that foreign forces attempt to influence elections in America, just as we have influenced as well as created regime change in multiple countries around the world, it is the White House budget proposal that cause the most concern.  Massive cuts in programs that help real Americans will be tossed aside like an old shoe, should anything resembling the proposed budget get passed.  The list is gargantuan, too large to even begin to detail here.  It it clear that in the name of making America Great Again, President Trump's vision is more weapons, a bigger stick to wave at our enemies, and less federal support for those not born with his silver spoon.  Fortunately, we know the budget won't pass in its current form, but we also know that many important programs will be axed, many safety nets will be cut, and many more decisions that place short term economic growth over the long term health of American citizens and our environment will be proposed and passed.

So often in life, we are unable to understand when pivotal moments occur.  Later, with the advantage of hindsight we may shake our heads in understanding, but usually the moments pass without our recognition of their importance.

Electing Donald Trump as President, along with granting him a GOP majority in Congress may well be one of those moments marked by history as a watershed.  But, and this is the critical understanding, it does not have to be interpreted as a negative moment.

Our sun, a star, will eventually experience an explosive death, a supernova.  Generally, just before this event, the star obtains the brightness of 100 suns, for a short time.  Perhaps this election, and the years which are to come, will be marked by history as the last great burst of activity which is characterized by greed, selfishness, and short sighted decisions.  Perhaps future historians will note with pride that this election galvanized the movement which shattered the belief that electing the rich will uplift the citizenry, that destroying the environment to justify job creation is myopic, that dehumanizing our enemies to justify their killing is still murder, that material wealth is only as good as the ways it is used to end poverty, hunger, and need, and that cooperation is the foundation upon which humanity's spiritual evolution was built.  

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