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PostI Met Jim Jones...and Other Thoughts on Charismatic Leadership (from Ric Mauricio) (John Eipper, USA, 08/01/20 4:16 am)
Ric Mauricio writes:
I do applaud Elon Musk's dreams, ideas and initiative. Many people dream but never fulfill those dreams. They just dream. So their dreams are lost to humanity. And yes, he is quite charismatic. In my line of work, I have met many a charismatic leader. In fact, I have often stepped away from my line of work to satisfy a curiosity about charismatic individuals.
One such curiosity was Jim Jones, who founded the People's Temple. It was located on Fillmore and Geary here in San Francisco. I attended a gathering there to satisfy my curiosity one day. Yes, Jim Jones was extremely charismatic and by all appearances, a very smart guy. Combine that with religion and you will create a heck of a bang. But my sixth sense kicked in. He made my hair stand on end. Does anyone remember Adolf Hitler? Another charismatic and smart individual. Well, that's what Jim Jones reminded me of. Many people are impressed by charisma. Many people are impressed with advanced degrees (sorry to those on WAIS who have advanced degrees). Some people are impressed by wealth. The people here in Silicon Valley who I come to admire the most may have all those, but they temper it with a sense of humility. Not easy to do when you have it all. You start to look down on those who have little or no advanced degrees or wealth.
I can't tell you how many CPAs and MBAs I've met who had no clue on what they were doing. I once had a brother-in-law who had a PhD in archaeology. He was foul-mouthed and arrogant. At family gatherings, it was quite uncomfortable. No one interacted with him. Somehow, I was able to hold a conversation with him by delving into the subject of archaeology. But it was quite challenging to hold a conversation when every other word was the "f" word. Oh, that reminds of the time I visited a friend at SF State in his linguistics class. The teacher asked the class if anyone knew what the real meaning of the "f" word was. No one raised their hands, so I raised mine. Yeah, I had out of curiosity, looked it up. It means to furrow the ground to prepare it ready to plant the seed. Yup, makes sense.
John E states: "The only saving graces [of the pandemic] are the financial markets, which are not as depressed as they might be, and relatively stable housing prices. Contrast this with 2008-'09. Any theories as to the causes?"
Let me attempt to explain. In 2008-2009, the housing prices were severely impacted by a housing price bubble fed by very easy money: negative-amortization loans coupled with stated-income funding practices. Today, banks are a bit more level-headed, plus the low interest rates. Today, because of Covid-19, people are holding on to their homes for dear life, thereby creating a scarcity of supply to meet the demand from those who are still employed. Most of the tech companies here have employees who are working from home. And those tech-oriented workers are feeding the demand for technology companies like Microsoft (Up 30% YTD), Zoom (Up 267%), Amazon (Up 65% YTD), and Nvidia (Up 81%). And of course, these techies are earning enough money to buy all the Teslas I see driving around: Tesla (Up 256%); Yes, Tor, investing in Elon Musk is quite profitable. And of course, Apple, who is benefiting from the resurgence of China (Up 32% YTD). That's great, if only I had known to buy those stocks, people tell me. Oh, but you don't have to do that. It's already done for you. This leads me to another point. Which index does one follow? The Dow, with 30 stocks? The S&P 500 or the S&P 1000? Warren Buffett, who has underperformed the S&P 500 for the last 15 years, advises one to invest in that index. Others say the S&P 1000. Ah, I call the S&P 500 an OK portfolio (which is really what it is; it's S&P picking the stocks based on their rules; not bad, but not the best). As for the S&P 1000, I call it diworsification. In that index, only 5% of that portfolio makes the return positive. The other 95% creates a drag on performance. Oh, wait, that's the average number of mutual fund managers who don't outperform the index. OK, so what portfolio is there to pick the outsized winners? And the winner is: the Nasdaq 100. If you had invested $100,000 in the S&P 500 15 years ago, you would have $347,000 as of June 30th. If you had invested in the Nasdaq 100, you would have $765,000. I am recalculating to July 31st today, but I suspect with the upsurge in the tech stocks, the delta is much greater. Again, you don't have to pick the stocks. The NASDAQ does it for you, automatically.
I apologize for being a little long-winded today, but there is something that I would like to point out since it affects many of us. No one seems to point this out. Trillion dollar budgets are fed by massive digital printing of our fiat currency. When you do that, you are devaluing the purchasing power of the dollar, benignly know as inflation. But, you say, inflation is relatively low these days. Ah yes, this is being accomplished with lower energy costs, aka fuel costs. So shipping and WFH (working from home) is helping. It is also being helped by government manipulation of the data (no, this is not a conspiracy theory; one only has to look at the various methodologies being used and massaged to calculate the inflation rate). Why would the government base social security on a CPI that includes products and services that impact urban workers and not retirees? Then there's zero or negative interest rates. So while your purchasing power is being whittled away by inflation, your return on your treasuries and CDs are non existent. Ah, another reason to accumulate good companies or real estate (now you know why the smart money is buying these assets). Two issues that are affecting Social Security is the fact that it can only invest in these zero interest rate treasuries and because of unemployment, Social Security taxes on earnings are dropping faster than what is being paid out. Look for a cut in your Social Security in the future. I do have a solution for this, though, and again, no one seems to pay this any mind. Remove the cap on income that the Social Security and Medicare tax is based on. You would, of course, on the other end, implement a governor on benefits to higher-income recipients.
OK, to quote the late Stan Lee of the Marvel Universe: "Nuff said."
JE comments: Ric, I have long known that your common-sense skepticism keeps you financially sound, but it also saved your life. Imagine if you had fallen under the spell of Jim Jones. Could you tell us more about your encounter with the 20th century's most notorious cult leader? (Perhaps that's an overstatement: some would call Hitler a cult leader.)
Charisma is undefinable, but it yields tangible results. I understand why Zoom has zoomed during the pandemic. But why should Tesla stock be soaring? The company still doesn't generate actual profits. My hypothesis: people are buying the Elon Musk brand.