Nancy Bush

NAB Research, LLC, is a Georgia-based consulting firm specializing in providing strategic advice and market intelligence to financial industry participants. NAB is not a registered investment advisor and is not affiliated with any brokerage firm or hedge fund.
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How To Trump-Proof Your Life

After the sturm und drang of the last few weeks—the Comey firing, the intelligence leak to the Russians, the shove of the president of Montenegro, and all the other instances of Trump boorishness and “inexperience”—I’m done. I’m not turning in my conservative credentials—I do NOT regard our President to be a conservative, as his tax plans so amply prove—but I have decided that my mental and financial health for the next four years (or however long this national nightmare lasts) are paramount and will hinge upon my ability to manage my life for maximum Trump avoidance and minimum Trump-related damage.

How to do this in a time when this man is incessantly in the world’s face, and thereby in mine? Like the baby-proofing of a home that takes place in the wake of an infant’s birth, I realize that this task will require endless vigilance and imagination, in order to anticipate all the ways that this 70-year old screaming toddler can get into my head and ruin my day. For a bank analyst who must be aware of economic developments on a continuous basis and must stay tuned in constantly to the financial news and other media, screening out the din of Trump-noise will be no mean feat.

There are a few obvious fixes, and many other folks are apparently resorting to the same stratagems to try to calm themselves. One is to avoid social media sites—Facebook and Twitter, most notably—but that is a tough row to hoe. I have opted to “unfollow” those whom I know are likely to engage in political fisticuffs on Facebook, and Twitter makes it easy to block or mute those who resort to vile and profanity-laced rants whenever they perceive a slight to their political beliefs. (Note—not all of these folks are Trump supporters; the left has shown itself to be fully capable of equally reprehensible speech, as D-List celebrity Kathy Griffin has so vividly demonstrated.) So with some effort, it is possible to have an enjoyable experience on Facebook by concentrating on non-political posts, but I have found it best to use Twitter sparingly and with caution.

The issues with print and broadcast media are more straightforward—turn off the TV and don’t read the latest article on Mr. President’s daily antics. I read only what relates to the general economy and to finance—some of which will inevitably mention the President’s lack of any discernible economic agenda—but mainly these articles articulate the efforts of Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn to get something done on the tax and regulatory fronts in the midst of the daily chaos. Luckily, the Fed’s coming efforts to “normalize” interest rates and to shrink its massive balance sheet will provide plenty of possible outcomes (both good and bad) to contemplate, as will the release of the results of the annual bank stress tests and CCAR in mid-June.

So far, these have been things to avoid—but what about things to DO? It seems to me that the occasion of a national leader whom one is barely able to stomach—and I’m pretty sure that I would have felt the same way about Lyndon Johnson, had I been old enough to realize what was going on—is an opportunity to do something rather than just sit around and gripe. My approach has been to make sure that I make my presence and opinions known fully and often to my Congressional delegation, which here in Georgia is solidly Republican and staunchly pro-Trump, in accordance with the state’s vote last November. Does calling and writing these men do any good? It can’t hurt, and my bet is that sooner or later the growth of a Trump-averse constituency will get their attention.

I think that it’s also important to support the institutions that are most endangered by the Trump agenda, and my choice those would be the organizations engaged in scientific research into the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans and on its animal and plant populations. Indeed, the whole anti-science bent of the Trump presidency calls upon those of us who grew up in the era of NASA and the moon race—and who believe in the good that scientific advancement can do—to do whatever we can to make sure that our favorite scientific institutions (mine are the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Atlanta Botanical Garden) receive both our enthusiastic moral and financial support.

I’ve also started to read more—both fiction and nonfiction—and I’ve been amazed at the parallels that exist to this peculiar American interlude with some modern-day historical literature. I have long been a devotee of English author Hilary Mantle and her stories of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, and have both read “Wolf Hall” and have seen the utterly peerless BBC production of the same name. But for some reason I had never read the second volume of the trilogy, “Bring Up the Bodies”, perhaps because the book was subsumed within the BBC television production and reading it seemed superfluous. But I started having a serious Thomas Cromwell craving recently, and downloaded “Bodies” onto my iPad—and devoured it within days. Not only is it a worthy successor to “Wolf Hall”, but it so further develops the Cromwell character—his personal grudges, his ruthlessness shot through with unexpected humanity, and his ability to turn off completely any compassion toward Anne Boleyn, his one-time conspirator—that it is a fascinating study in the Machiavellian qualities needed for leadership. And her depiction of Henry as a chameleon to his people, and as a king whose every whim must be obeyed, are just too close to the present-day White House for comfort.

A big issue for anyone connected to the financial industry is how to protect one’s own finances in this era of fiat-by-Twitter, and I would be the first to admit that this will be a daunting task. The President ostensibly has the potential to damage any American industry should his whims suddenly change, and it will be nigh impossible to build an investment portfolio that is fortress-like enough to withstand the turmoil that is to come as corporate tax relief and healthcare reform fail to materialize. My default strategy has been to stick with what I know—investment in companies that produce a growing stream of dividends, and have a long history of doing that no matter what the political environment. I would also note that the major bank stocks seem to be in the middle of a significant correction, and that these stocks may increasingly offer value as the “Trump fade” goes on.

So, do I count myself as part of “The Resistance”? Not as I understand it. I don’t see that much will be accomplished by young women marching in pink “pussy hats” or by baring their derrieres to show Trump insults written upon them. The people who support Trump—and there are many, and they have their reasons—just see these displays as proof of the incivility and disrespect on the part of the left that Donald Trump uses so skillfully to his advantage. I think that a better and more effective resistance to our President is an icy disdain and a refusal to play his games, as well as a coordinated effort to build civility and logical reasoning as the way that we deal with each other and with the wider world.

America will survive Donald Trump, of that I have no doubt. (We survived Jimmy Carter—enough said.) But I want America to survive Trumpism, as well, and that is going to be a dicier and longer-term proposition. It will require a retooling of our political dialogue and a reordering of our political priorities. But mostly it’s going to require new political leaders—much like the fresh face that has just assumed the Presidency of France—who are not attached to the old order (no Clintons or Bushes need apply) and are beholden to no party or paymaster. Let’s hope he or she surfaces soon, because it’s going to take a lot of effort and enlightenment to clean up this mess.