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Thursday, 20 July 2017 00:00

 

Regular Folks

I’ve never really enjoyed picking on famous people when they do something foolish or comical.  Many are such easy targets, yet there is no way they can defend themselves from the typical onslaught of criticism, so it just seems kinder not to comment.  Besides, I’m certain there isn’t a celebrity on the planet that cares what I post on Facebook.  Then again….     

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and one of the richest men in the world, is apparently “touring America” to meet and learn from regular folks to better understand our country.  I think this is a great idea.  In fact, I would like to personally invite Mr. Zuckerberg to visit us in Huntersville, NC.  Moreover, here are a few things I hope he would learn about America if he does accept our invitation…

First, regular folks don’t travel to regular places with an entourage.  They may order a chocolate malt, as Zuckerberg did at one of his stops, but they don’t have an assistant pay for it.  Second, regular folks don’t have an “advance team” that can arrange a meeting with the local mayor.  Third, most regular folks don’t stay at $1,000 per night fishing resorts, although a lot of regular folks do like to fish, so perhaps Zuckerberg is making progress toward his goal…

Regular folks like to do, well, regular things.  They like to walk their dog early in the morning.  They like to root for the local team and against that team's arch-rival.  They like to dote on their grandkids, spend Saturday mornings at garage sales, and Sunday mornings in church.  For many regular folks, even today, their word is their bond.  They hug each other sincerely and don't take themselves too seriously.  

If you don't live like a regular folk, then you will struggle to understand the significance of regular things, and how they serve to connect people throughout society.  

Without question, it is important that corporate icons, like Mr. Zuckerberg, truly understand our country, what makes it special, what everyday challenges it faces.  Our country has long-produced amazing visionaries, from Edison and Bell to the more recent generation which includes: Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and the late Steve Jobs, to name a few.  

In my view, the latest generation seems more isolated from ordinary America, primarily because their success leads to enormous wealth at a very early age.  Zuckerberg is 33 and worth about $70 billion.  He will likely accomplish amazing things in the remainder of his life, but I’m not sure he will ever again understand the issues regular folks deal with every day.  This isn’t a condemnation; it’s just a by-product of his incredible success and wealth.  What’s troubling about all this is that economic and political policy are increasingly being formulated and controlled by powerful individuals, corporations, and government bureaucracies.  Under crony capitalism, these ever-more-powerful entities not only don't really understand regular folks, they don't really think to do so is important.  

Meanwhile, in Washington, it looks like health care reform is not going to happen in the completely polarized, dysfunctional U.S. Congress.  I suspect Congress will soon pivot to tax reform, but expectations here are understandably low.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle seem so out of touch with the rest of the country.  What would our country look like if powerful influencers, like Mr. Zuckerberg and the political elite in Washington, really did understand and embrace the core values of regular folks?  Sadly, it’s hard to see that happening any time soon.  Term limits for congressmen would be a step in the right direction, but that will never happen. 

Until we figure out how to defeat this disconnectedness and polarization, gridlock in Washington will continue, prolonging the period of sub-par economic growth.  On the bright side, interest rates should stay relatively low, and inflation is likely to remain benign.  With reasonable earnings growth, it is definitely possible that the overall stock market could grind its way higher over time.  Moreover, there is still significant cash on the sidelines that could push stocks higher.  And if tax reform is accomplished, this would be a positive catalyst for the economy and markets.  The economic and investment environment certainly could be worse, but we sure are a long way from greatness, or at least fulfilling our potential as a nation.  The fact that so many of us regular folks find this unsettling is ultimately a good thing.  At least I hope it is.

Michael Kayes, CFA

4 comments

  • Comment Link Micheal Hawkins Thursday, 20 July 2017 11:13 posted by Micheal Hawkins

    Michael,
    Thank you for your straight forwardness. I truly believe most hard working Americans have the same mind set that you have so clearly expressed.
    As you described regular folks here in our great country in comparison to powerful individuals and government bureaucracies, several things came to mind.
    When our elected official supposedly hold town meeting with us "regular folks", why doesn't the media cover these events?
    At such events, we the people should press our elected official's to hard questions and made to answer publicly.
    To Senators....
    Term limits - Do you agree or not and why?
    Health care coverage - why are you not on the same health care plan as our retirees?
    Retirement Benefits - Why is yours so much higher than the average American?
    Social Security - If you were on the same plan as regular folks would you be more concerned of it's sovereignty?
    Salary - Regular folks don't get to vote themselves a raise. Why do you have those rights when regular folks have to be able to achieve targeted goals.

    I could go on, but we both have to get back to earning our living.

    Thank you for your comments.

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  • Comment Link Robert Bloomer Thursday, 20 July 2017 10:54 posted by Robert Bloomer

    Excellent!!

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  • Comment Link Jim Walker Thursday, 20 July 2017 09:57 posted by Jim Walker

    Very insightful writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom....Jim Walker

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  • Comment Link Tom Maupin Thursday, 20 July 2017 09:44 posted by Tom Maupin

    Mike,
    Very concerned about a Trump Slump over next 6 months based on many of the things you brought up in your blog. What should us regular folks do to protect our hard earned nest eggs against an out of touch Capitol Hill?

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