treading water for now

Good news and bad.

On the bad side, it seems like the Trump administration vaccination plan was more press announcements and less acquiring actual vaccine doses than expected. So vaccinating the population will take longer than we’d thought a week ago. Evidence is also coming to light that Trump’s efforts to illegally remain in office, first by falsifying the election results and then by attacking Congress, were much more extensive and carefully planned than I’d realized. He was abetted by Republican congresspeople and apparently supported financially by foreign governments. Around the world, it was very disturbing to see Republican legislators continue to press baseless claims of election fraud even after the assault on the Capitol. It’s hard to argue that Senators Cruz (Princeton/Harvard Law) and Hawley (Stanford/Yale Law), for example, don’t have the cognitive resources to understand the harm they were doing in pursuit of personal gain.

On the good side, the coup attempt failed, mostly, as I see it, due to the heroism of state-level Republican election officials who refused to yield to presidential cajoling/threats. From a purely investment point of view, the mess Trump left behind is bigger and uglier than the market had thought even a week ago. So ultra-low interest rates aren’t going away any time soon.

Random data points: about a quarter of the national work force has already stopped working at home and has returned to offices; vehicle traffic over the bridges and tunnels into New York City is back to 90% of its pre-pandemic level. Public transport within the city, however, hasn’t recovered much so far at all.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the possible relationship between the strength of penny stocks and the falloff in sports betting. I think there’s something to this, but I don’t know how much. At the same time, the failure of the money management establishment to even keep pace with the S&P 500 at a time when amateurs are raking in money calls into question whether the services of “old men in bow ties” is worth the 1% -3% of assets (or more) they charge. I have no idea how this all plays out, other than that we probably don’t go fully back to the status quo ante.

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