Years ago, I gave a speech in Texas for Rick Goodwin, a financial advisor. It was an election year, so he kicked off the meeting by discussing politics. He noted that the word comes from Greek, with “poli” meaning “many,” and “tics” meaning “blood-sucking bugs that are hard to get rid of.” Robin Williams used the same joke.
I can’t speak for others, but this is why I believe Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, even though he repels so many people. He points out what we all know – politicians regularly avoid hard questions, outright lie, and fail to follow through on much of what they promise.
We’re tired of it. For many people, the answer is “anyone but a current politician.”
That doesn’t make the Donald’s campaign right or wrong. It’s just a natural extension of where we’ve been for way too long. We live in a divided world. Not between the rich and poor, but between those that suffer consequences for their actions and words, and those that get off scot-free.
The free-pass list starts with politicians and appointees, and isn’t limited to one side of the aisle. We were lectured ad nauseam by former Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner about sharing the burden of the recession and how higher taxes were needed to rebuild the nation.
This is the guy who failed to pay his own taxes, blamed it on TurboTax, and got a free pass.
Funny, I can’t think of a single instance where anyone I know underpaid their taxes and wasn’t hit with penalties and interest by the IRS.
This pales in comparison with the cost of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which politicians told us would be, as you might guess from the name, affordable.
Of course, they also said any legislation would be posted online for three days before Congress voted, giving all Americans a chance to read it and weigh in. That’s a far cry from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s declaration, “You’ll have to pass it to see what’s in it,” about the ACA.
Now we’ve had it for three years, and premiums have increased by more than 10% per year. Premiums are expected to jump by more than 11% in 2017. My own premium more than doubled since 2010, as my coverage declined. I can’t find a single politician who supported the Affordable Care Act who is willing to kick in for my insurance bill.
We can’t leave out the many contributors to the financial crisis. Sure, executives at banks that packaged trashy mortgages and sold them deserve a lot of blame, but there’s one group that holds singular responsibility for the mess – the rating agencies.
Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s are identified by the SEC as Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (NRSRO’s), which allows other firms to rely on them for regulatory purposes. This gives the two companies enormous advantages in their market, which they used to make billions of dollars over the years.
But that wasn’t enough.
They slapped the highest ratings on a bunch of junk mortgage bonds to increase revenue. This is a fact, not a guess, as stated in court by several employees. When called out by companies that relied on their ratings, executives at the rating agencies claimed their ratings were mere opinions that are protected free speech. Not one of these cowards went to jail.
And then there are central bankers, the lovely group of bureaucrats who steal from savers daily with exceptionally low and even negative interest rates, all in the hopes of driving economies higher. It hasn’t worked for eight years, and has no prospect of working in the future, but hey, they’re still trying!
When do we get our money back? Unfortunately, I think I know the answer.
At least in the financial markets – absent government intervention, like we had with the auto industry and large banks – companies usually suffer for their bad acts.
That’s why I cheer on equity sleuths like John Del Vecchio, who spend their days rooting out firms that, while not technically lying to investors, are doing everything they can to stretch the truth about their financial results.
So many companies use stock buybacks to boost their earnings per share, or strip out what they call “one-time” costs from quarterly results to improve their numbers, that it’s hard to believe earnings when reported. With stock indexes near all-time highs, while GDP growth languishes near zero and rosy corporate earnings posting yet another decline, the time seems right for traders in John’s Forensic Investor to profit handsomely.
Finally, a consequence… and this one can actually deliver profits to investors.
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