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Friday, 24 March 2017 00:00

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One Bag of Potatoes

The late author and historian Stephen Ambrose remarked that two individuals were largely responsible for the successful invasion of Normandy and ultimate victory in World War II. Those two individuals were Dwight Eisenhower and Andrew Higgins. As history buffs surely know, Higgins designed the amphibious landing crafts for the Normandy invasion. Without his creative and productive genius, D-Day would not have succeeded.

Currently, while our country anxiously waits for much-needed tax reform, Congress continues to struggle with its goal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Listening to the daily political diatribes, it seems obvious that there is a pervasive unwillingness to think outside the box and an overwhelming lack of creativity in Washington. Polarization has become predictable and extremely tiresome.

Somehow we need to change the process... As they say, we need a new paradigm. We need a present day Andrew Higgins. Perhaps we have one... In an amusing article in the Wall Street Journal – “Who Is Mailing Potatoes to NBA players? A Spud Web of Intrigue,” I learned about a very creative marketing project, designed by Riad Bekhit, the owner of a company called Potato Parcel, whose business it is to ship potatoes as greeting cards. Personalized pictures and messages, placed on potatoes, have been sent to most of the NBA players, including stars like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Cool, huh?

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It’s not the same is it?... I wrote once before in a previous newsletter that we are becoming less serious in a world that is becoming more serious. To me, these words still ring true, perhaps more so now than when first uttered.

In preparation for World War II, business and political leaders came together and produced the greatest productive output in the history of the world. We were unified and purposeful. Today, we seem preoccupied with unyielding special interests, narrow viewpoints, and stubborn political posturing. We have to find our greater purpose, something noble to rally around. Sadly, I see little signs of progress toward these goals in the current political mess.

But outside the beltway, across our country, in small businesses and local communities the entrepreneurial spirit is growing, nurtured by the “one in, two out” regulatory philosophy of the new administration. In essence, this new approach strives to eliminate two regulations for every new one enacted. The promise of less regulation has pushed the Small Business Optimism Index upward to its highest level in four decades. This is an important development to monitor as the vast majority of jobs are created by small businesses. Any progress on health care or tax reform will likely drive optimism even higher.

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to hover close to an all-time high, reflecting the potential for an improving economy and higher earnings growth. With a forward Price/Earnings (PE) ratio of 18.1 for the S&P 500, much of the expected economic improvement is already discounted in stock prices, which means it will take accelerating earnings to propel the stock market appreciably higher. While admittedly, my confidence in government is low, the two powerful catalysts of lower taxes and reduced regulation remain in place. Rest assured I will gladly applaud government if it produces positive results in either area.

On that note, I wonder if I might be underestimating the significance of Potato Parcel. Perhaps we should send our political representatives personal messages via potato. How much can be said on one potato?

  • Stop bickering
  • Act with integrity
  • Compromise for the greater good
  • Think nobly
  • Show humility
  • Be faithful

That’s quite a bag of potatoes, to start with. I wonder if the company offers free shipping?

 

Michael Kayes, CFA

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