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Will Donald Trump be a Successful President?

Posted by on in Economy

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It is still too early to make an assessment if Donald Trump will succeed or fail as leader of the free world. In the months leading up to the election, and in the short time that he has been in office, a clear profile of Donald Trump’s leadership skills and style is emerging. How he employs these leadership traits will determine his legacy. These are my observations to date on his demonstrated leadership characteristics that may serve as a predictor of his performance.

Strengths

Vision

In the months leading up to the election, Donald Trump and his close colleagues saw something that others did not fully see and appreciate. They saw millions of Americans who were left behind, who lost their jobs to automation and/or foreign countries and who were experiencing stagnant wages. They captured this vision into a clear (but questionable) vision of America.

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The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States will likely have a profound effect for years to come. I cannot remember another point in my lifetime where there is the possibility of so much change and disruption to established norms and principles of business. How do we prepare for what could be a roller coaster four or eight years in North America and around the world?

Knowledge is power. The intent of this blog is to propose a set of KPIs that we can all use to measure the impact of the new president and his policies. Mr. Trump has made a number of bold promises in his pre- and post-election speeches. Specifically, he has promised to “Make America Great Again,” to stem the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas and to renegotiate NAFTA. By monitoring these KPIs, they will help us determine how his presidency is impacting our countries, our companies, and our personal wealth. Here are few KPIs to consider.

1. Gross Domestic Product

GDP represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period (Source: https://www.bea.gov/national/index.htm#gdp ); you can think of it as the size of the economy. The US economy advanced an annualized 3.5 percent in the three months to September of 2016. (Source: http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/gdp-growth )

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The American Election Puzzle

Posted by on in Economy

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The American election process is a long, complex and byzantine exercise that is very puzzling this year. After an extensive set of primaries, Americans selected two candidates, one from each major party, that are widely disliked. Unlike President Obama, John McCain or Mitt Romney, who were respected, this year’s candidates do not command the same admiration. This is the first puzzle. With so many options to choose from, why did Americans choose these two individuals?

Donald Trump, during this election campaign, has managed to offend women, African Americans, immigrants, Latinos, veterans, gays and lesbians, disabled people and others. Women represent approximately 50% of the US population. African Americans represent 13.2% of the population while Latinos represent 17.2%. Some simple math would suggest that Mr. Trump, the Republican candidate, should be trailing Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, by huge numbers. The fact that they are only separated by a few percentage points in the most recent polls suggests that there is second puzzle. Why are so many women, African Americans, Latinos, veterans, gays and lesbians, disabled people and other groups voting for Trump?

Another element of this election that is quite different from previous elections is that Donald Trump, a representative of the Republican party has expressed views on various issues that are not consistent with Republican values. In fact, his policies on immigration, NATO, trade and other key issues have been at odds with Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and other Republican leaders. Moreover, Trump’s business practices (i.e. Trump University, not allowing African Americans to move into his buildings) have also raised major questions about Mr. Trump’s suitability for office. Many Republican officials and leaders have not endorsed Donald Trump or actually distanced themselves from him. This is a third puzzle of this election year. Why are so many Republican voters, who support some of the more traditional Republican policies, supporting this candidate this year.

The answer seems to be as follows. Hillary Clinton is not well liked. She is viewed as secretive and possibly a bit devious when it comes to the use of a private e mail server for government communication purposes; questions remain about her independence when it comes to her family Foundation that has ties to key people and groups around the world. But these concerns hardly explain how a few days before the election, the polls are so tight. To solve these puzzles requires a closer look at the structure of the states, demographics and the nature of American political beliefs and values.

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On July 1, Canada celebrated its 149th birthday. Just prior to Canada Day, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of industry professionals on the topic of the Canadian freight market during a Stifel conference call. For those of you trying to learn more about America’s neighbor to the north, this and subsequent blogs will capture the highlights from the presentation.

Canada has a population of 36.3 million people, about one tenth the size of the United States and similar in size to the population of the state of California. The majority of the population lives within a 200 mile radius of the US border, the longest unprotected border in the world. About 20 million Canadians live in the major metropolitan locations of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Canada has the eleventh largest economy in the world.

From a freight perspective, the country can be divided into 4 distinct regions. Each region has its own industries and transportation challenges.

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This week’s visit to Washington by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his family and his Canadian delegation was certainly one of the high points in U.S. – Canada relations in many years. It brought back memories of President Reagan and PM Mulroney singing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” in Quebec City many years ago.

Watching the leaders toast each other and seeing some concrete agreements come out of the meetings was certainly a sign that Canada-US relations are back on a positive track. The fact that President Obama hosted a state dinner for Mr. Trudeau, the first state dinner for a Canadian Prime Minister in 19 years, was a very positive indicator that Canada is back in the good graces of its most important ally and trading partner.

Unfortunately for Canada, Barack Obama is in the last year of his presidency. At this point, the presidential race is pretty much down to four candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for the Republicans. As you listen to and study the rhetoric from these candidates, and sense the mood of the American electorate, there is much to worry about.

The Democrats

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