Here’s What’s Really Going On*

Here’s What’s Really Going On*
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By Jack Kelly

President Donald Trump is doing away with all rules and regulations, as he is not a fan of rules and regulations. He feels that they inhibit the animal spirits of the marketplace. Rules are an anathema to Trump, as he views them as unnecessary obstacles in the way of business and impedes growth. 

Recruiting and placing compliance and regulatory professionals for decades, I recognize the vital importance of having people watching over places like Wall Street to ensure that they don’t take advantage of investors, engage in Ponzi schemes (aka Bernie Madoff), don’t engage in financial shenanigans that cause a second financial crisis, trade on inside information (like our pal Senator Burr) or allow the laundering of money by terrorists or organized crime groups. 

Like anything else in life, there’s a balance. Too much willy-nilly regulations, as most compliance professionals will probably agree, could lead to complicated bureaucracies and thwart, albeit with good intentions, potentially valuable business ventures. 

When Trump first took office, he demanded that at least two existing regulations should be ripped up for every newly proposed regulation. This week, Trump took things to the next level (it’s surprising because he never usually does that) and signed an executive order directing federal agencies to cut “unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery,” a move he said would help the economy recover from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump said, “I’m directing agencies to review the hundreds of regulations we’ve already suspended in response to the virus and make these suspensions permanent where possible…to use any and all authority to waive, suspend, and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery.” He added, “I’m also instructing agencies to use the emergency authorities to speed up regulation cuts or new rules that will create jobs and prosperity and get rid of unnecessary rules and regulations.”  At least he didn’t call for the firing of all compliance folks—yet. 

As a Libertarian, I’m not a big fan of big government, but I am a hypocrite. More regulations have been good for my business–less rules, not so much. Hey, at least I’m being transparent and honest. Trump’s anti-regulatory stance has hurt my executive search business. It was as if I was driving down the highway, listening to great music, enjoying the beautiful, sunny day and a big wrecking ball hit me out of nowhere. Wouldn’t it be nice if all writers and publishers admitted when they benefit or lose money on a topic that they’re covering, so you know where they stand? 

In addition to cutting regulations, the government is minting money. Fed Chair Jerome Powell is literally printing trillions of dollars out of thin air to keep the economy afloat. He has admitted on 60 Minutes Sunday night that without pushing big wads of cash into the economy, we’re all screwed. See, that’s an example of someone telling us what’s what, even though it doesn’t make us feel all safe and warm.  

Elon Musk has been a harsh critic of the way the states are counting the Covid-19 deaths. Musk contends that they’re overcounting to save face. It’s pretty obvious to him that the models touted by Doctors Fauci and Birx promised millions of deaths and the virus failed to deliver. So, according to Musk, officials are fudging the data. Musk contends that the numbers need to look scary, so that everyone who has been stuck at home and had their businesses closed down won’t rise up and revolt. 

Hospitals have basically shut down everything to make room for the anticipated deluge of Covid-19 patients, which didn’t happen as expected. Without nose jobs, hip replacements, tummy tucks, breast enhancements and whatever else surgeons do at hospitals, they’ve lost a lot of money. Musk also points out that hospitals get paid more when they have Covid-19 patients to help compensate for the risk and business forfeited by not accepting other patients. Now, do you think hospital administrators, knowing that their hospitals are hemorrhaging money, may look the other way when forms are checked off for Covid-19, when it’s not absolutely, positively certain?

I know you think Musk is a little out there. However, this story kinda backs his theory. “The wife of John Glenn, the former astronaut and U.S. senator, died early Tuesday at a nursing home near family in St. Paul, Minnesota, of complications from COVID-19. She was 100.” Okay, really—100 years old? Covid-19?  

Just when you think 2020 can’t get crazier, a dam in Michigan broke, forcing 10,000 to evacuate and could leave people washed over by 9 feet of water. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who’s been in the news lately for taking a strict stand on locking down her citizens, declared a state of emergency for nearby counties. She admonished residents to stay at home and not try to surf the waves. Whitmer also called for people who are swimming out of the flood to wear masks, gloves and practice social distancing.

I’ll tell you who’s not broke—Joe Rogan! Rogan, if you don’t already know, is one of the most watched and listened-to podcasters. The pot-smoking, MMA-fighting announcer, actor, comedian and all-around raconteur hosts one of the best podcasts out there. 

His eclectic background is perfect for his free-flowing, two-to-three-hour interviews with everyone from the aforementioned Musk (who smoked a joint and drank whiskey on one of his appearances), brilliant scientists, fighters, comedians, politicians (such as Bernie Sanders) and an array of super interesting people. He just signed a contract with Spotify for a major exclusive podcast deal that could be worth north of $100 million, estimated by the Wall Street Journal.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who’s no slouch and worth about $400 million, was a former Goldman Sachs partner—as was his daddy. Mnuchin (you’d think he could buy a better name) gave a stern warning to people currently accepting unemployment benefits. He advised them that if the company that furloughed them offers their job back, you have to take it and say, “Thank you!” If a person rejects an offer from their company to return to work, after being laid off due to coronavirus, she/he will no longer be considered eligible to receive federal unemployment benefits.

Mnuchin said that companies receiving benefits under the Payroll Protection Program, who are inviting employees who had been laid off or furloughed due to the coronavirus crisis to return to work, should immediately tattletale on the folks to the local state unemployment offices of their offers.

This must be inspired by the sudden realization that the trillion-dollar stimulus program gave $600 on top of what states already offer to unemployed people. For many, this amount could be up to $1,000 a week. If you’re a warehouse worker breaking your back all day long making $24,000, it would be nuts not to take the unemployment checks and sit back and chill for a while. 

Companies have been complaining that the enhanced benefits made it hard to bring back people that were furloughed or hire folks collecting unemployment. It’s also said that the increased payment incentivizes companies to layoff workers, since they won’t feel guilty now that they’re earning more money from the government compared to what they were earning on the job.

The big corporations received more than $600 bucks. The airline received about $25 billion in bailouts. Some of these companies engaged in stock buybacks, executives were given ridiculous pay packages and financially engineered the rigging of their stock price making them go higher, which served to enrich the c-suite and top echelon executives. 

There’s a stipulation that the companies who received corporate socialism bailouts need to retain employees for a specified time period. Rather than being appreciative, the airlines blatantly said, “Thanks for the money, suckers! Once we hit the deadline, we’re terminating thousands of people. And, wait, there’s more. We’re gonna make them take unpaid time off, so we can save some more cash, yo!”

Meanwhile, more than 130 million stimulus checks are getting into the hands of needy Americans, as part of the government’s $2.2 trillion CARES Act. It’s nice, but furloughed and laid-off workers say $1,200 isn’t enough to get through the worst job market and economy since the Great Depression.  

The CEO of Softbank Masayoshi Son is richer than Joe Rogan—much richer. Sorry, Joe. He’s also “misunderstood.” In a recent earnings call, Son compared his suffering during the coronavirus pandemic to Jesus Christ. Although, I’m not up on my bible studies, I don’t think Jesus lost £13billion like Son did. 

“The situation is exceedingly difficult,” Son said during the call. “Our unicorns have fallen into this sudden coronavirus ravine. But some of them will use this crisis to grow wings.” Son anticipates that 15 companies in his portfolio will go bankrupt. Son lost billions on WeWork, Uber, and a dog-walking app among other questionable investments. Maybe his wealth will rise again? 

Here’s probably one of the most depressing pieces of news in an already-depressing year. The birth rates in America dropped to the lowest level in 35 years. When birth rates decline, it’s usually due to a negative vision for the future? 

When people are confident in their jobs, finances and what’s ahead, they’re apt to have children. If couples are worried about how they can afford a house, buy a car, save money for retirement, holding onto their jobs, changes in the climate and other bad stuff, it’s easier to just not have kids. 

This one sad metric speaks louder than anything the economists, newscasters or government officials have to pontificate. Until we can rebuild our collective confidence and intelligently plan for a better tomorrow, things won’t improve anytime soon.

*If I offended anyone, I’m sorry. If I said anything that’s libelous, please don’t sue me. I’m just trying to offer a light-hearted humorous take on what’s going on in our crazy f’d up world.

 

 

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