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2/13/17

The song and dance man (from IKN404)

I wasn't really sure how well it came out, not my best rant at all, but when separate subscribers write in with feedback about the screed saying that it should make the open blog, I don't see any reason to argue. Here's one of the two opening pieces to IKN404, out last night:

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The song and dance man

It's oh so quiet, Shh shh
It's oh so still, Shh shh
It's Oh So Quiet, Betty Hutton, 1951*



Preamble: I’ve tried to tighten up this semi-disjointed rant up a bit, but part of its message seems to be its very disjointed nature so in the end I edited it down but kept its disparate nature. I’m not in the running for a Pulitzer anyway. The TL:DR is “Trump isn’t really much of a factor to our investments and the world isn’t about to end just because he’s in the Oval Office”.



We need to talk about President Donald Trump. Soon we’ll need not to talk about Trump, the subject will get too repeated and too boring and as already noted on the blog (1) I’m going to curtail references to The Donald over there as much as possible (my tiny contribution to online well-being), but as The US government and its declarations are in the centre of all things newsy at the moment, there’s no avoiding at least some comment.



And the main comment is that, so far at least, there’s very little that really matters to me about President Trump’s administration. For sure there has been constant noise, sometimes close to deafening, about the executive orders and decisions handed down, along with the pushback from politicians and legal beagles alike. For what it’s worth, my fave to date is his picking a fight with the US judiciary. Really not a very good idea, Donald, it’s your four/eight year tenancy vs jurisprudence of two plus centuries, you’re taking a knife to a gunfight.



But it’s all rather inconsequential so far because it’s nearly all domestic policy. For sure building a big beautiful wall, re-doing NAF(F)TA and not letting people in from dangerous countries will affect people from countries other than The USA, but all of those are domestic and not foreign policy decisions and if you piss off an Australian politico or two along the way, big deal. The only thing we mining investors should care about are either domestic fiscal policy decisions that have a knock-on effect through Wall St, or true foreign policy decisions by The Donald, so far at least we’ve had none. Yes, we’ve had mutterings about a “phenomenal” (bless him) tax plan (2) which people are guessing will be “stimulative” (translation: rich get richer) and just the rumour saw bank stocks pop higher last week. When that one gets rolled out we can see how much optimism is already baked in, but you don’t need to take my word for the lack of real fiscal or economic news out there as yet, take it from somebody much smarter than I am about the subject (3):



U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer said there was significant uncertainty about U.S. fiscal policy under the Trump administration, but the Fed would be strict in meeting targets of creating full employment and getting inflation to 2 percent.

Speaking at the Warwick Economics Summit on Saturday, Fischer also said he thought Dodd-Frank financial regulation would not be repealed as a whole, and he hoped capital requirements for banks would not be significantly reduced.

"There is quite significant uncertainty about what's actually going to happen, I don't think anyone quite knows. It's a process which involves both the administration and the Congress in deciding fiscal policy," Fischer said, in response to a question.



Translation: “We don’t know what he’s going to do to the US economy yet. And we’re the freakin’ Fed, we’ve got computers and stuff, you guys out there don’t have a chance!”



Meanwhile, when it comes to foreign policy and foreign relations The Donald has found out quickly that “The Art of the Diplomatic Deal” is a missing chapter from his best-seller, a good thing for all of us. Remember all that “recognizing Taiwan” thing? Remember the “China nasty people playing nasty currency games”? Remember the trade war Trump threatened if China didn’t start giving America a good/fair/better deal? I’m sure President Xi Jiping of China remembered all of them when he told The USA that he wouldn’t even pick up the phone if The Donald wasn’t ready to accept the One China policy. Trump agreed, he now recognizes China as a single entity offshore islands and all, the two had a long conversation (4) and once it was done, the two were telling us of their assurances to work together for the greater good of both countries. Donald, that’s what having your wings clipped feels like. So here’s my bet; domestically Trump will continue to make waves, cause controversy and shake up “the system” (or the bit of the system he has identified as the nasty bit), but when it comes to the fate of the world he’s not going to make much of a difference, the smarter world leaders (China, Russia, some parts of EU and that does not include the UK) have got his measure already. The most insightful thing I read about Trump this week came from an unusual source, but a whipsmart brain. Here’s Mel Brooks (5) on his new President and entourage (and before you send in any stuffy mails, “anti-Muslim travel ban” are the words of The Guardian, not Brooks’ or mine):



Brooks, who views Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban as poorly planned and poorly executed – his parents came to the US as kids – does not revile the new president in the kneejerk way most movie people do. “Trump doesn’t scare me,” he says. “He’s a song-and-dance man. Pence [the vice-president] and Bannon [Trump’s scheming henchman, a kind of Dick Cheney without the radiant, cherubic charm], those guys make me nervous.” He adds: “We are not talking about Athenian democracy here.”



I agree. However much his style and persona might agree/disagree with you or I, this whole drain the swamp” and “break the rules” schtick is only going to travel so far. Will “The Resistance” in The USA change my life, or even my financial situation? About as much as the Tea Party did (i.e not at all). Will a Trump tax law that allows the rich to get richer have a knock-on effect on my portfolio? Maybe, but only in the same way the rich got richer through Reagan/Bush1/SlickWilly/Dubya/Barry did. As long as Trump defines himself as a financial force for change, be it ultimately positive or negative, I’ll be able to handle his character and mouthiness. The way he’s already being put in his place on the world stage augurs well, he’s turning into a net neutral for my life and that’s a welcome turn of events.



*Though you may remember the 1995 Björk cover version