random thoughts 1
Periodically I accumulate a set of topics, none of which is enough for a full article. In addition, I have a few comments on recent articles. So, in no particular order, let’s dive in. You might just find your own thoughts stirred in the process.

Economy and Markets

The remarkable stock market rally since the election continues. The SP 500 index is once again near its highs. This is despite the lack of progress in Washington on major legislation.

The market continues to be propelled by favorable monetary policies around the world. The market will continue to have an upward bias as long as world governments maintain low interest rates.

The problem is that valuations of stocks are increasing which means they must report higher earnings in an economy that is still growing too slowly to support their stock prices. If the economy does not start growing faster, we are likely to get a significant stock market drop once the market realizes that Trump – like his recent predecessors – can’t get anything done in Washington either.

Of course, there is a chance that Trump and Congress will get it together and start passing meaningful legislation. However, the longer it takes, the less I believe that this new government is going to get much more done than the Obama government.

All of this without considering the potential impact of the international issues with Syria, ISIS, Russia and Korea. Couple this with the increasing frequency of terrorists acts in Europe and it is hard to see how the market optimism that came about last fall after the election will continue.

Trump

We are now more than 100 days into the Trump presidency. Despite the fears of alarmists, Trump has not destroyed the US or the world so far. In fact, the first three months of his administration have been remarkable in what little has gotten done despite a lot of executive orders, rhetoric and Twitter.

Trump’s ambitious goals for his presidency have been hijacked by the ineptitude of the Republicans in Congress and the incredible bureaucracy that is Washington, DC. Trump must be thoroughly frustrated by how absurdly difficult it is to get anything done due to the toxic political environment. Sadly, through the terms of Bush, Obama and now Trump, the constant in Washington is a Congress that only succeeds in its ability to do nothing.

One-hundred days and still no action on an infrastructure bill. This legislation – in some form – is supported by both parties, but is no closer to reality than it was during the election. If infrastructure – which has strong support – can’t pass, then there is little hope for healthcare and tax reform. And any solution to entitlement reforms or to addressing the deficit stand no chance of even being brought up.

If a bullying businessman like Trump can’t get the Washington elite to take action, what hope do we have that our government will ever be able to address the big issues facing the US?

United Airlines

Congratulations to United Airlines and their chairman, Oscar Munoz, on their response to the Louisville overbooked incident. The changes they announced last week make sense and are customer-friendly. Most of them are extremely simple and logical to the point of being obvious.

Which begs the question, why did it take a headline-grabbing incident to make United implement obvious policies to provide good service to their customers? Will other airlines respond with similar customer-friendly policies? More importantly, will this incident cause the airline industry to start putting customer service ahead of having the lowest fare and the most aggravating fee policies?

I wish I could be confident that airlines will place true customer service above offering the cheapest published fares. Unfortunately, history suggests that the industry won’t change and gradually United’s well thought-out changes will be largely ignored – instead of adopted – by the industry.

Time

I have been working on being more efficient and using my time better. In this regard, I came across material from management expert Peter Drucker that reinforced the concept of time management as a leadership principle. Drucker’s view was that good leaders need to regard time first and then the task.

As a manager of a business you soon find that payroll, which is the cost of employee’s time, is usually the largest cost item for your business. A good leader needs to wonder if the task is worth the time investment. This is true whether it is your time or the time of those who work for you. Time is like gold and good “spending habits” are essential. In this case, the currency is minutes and hours, not dollars.

As an individual, you need to know where your time goes. Track your time in fifteen minute increments for a week and then analyze the data. Identify small segments of time that are not being well spent. If you can capture these bits of time and consolidate them into a chunk of time that can be spent wisely, it is like finding money.
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