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The Oxpeckers, the Rhinos and the Tyranny of the Eternal Now

Donald Trump said something the other day that, amazingly, did not instantly send the media into paroxysms of outrage:

U.S. President Donald Trump asked securities regulators to explore replacing quarterly reporting requirements with half-yearly filings at the urging of executives including PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi, reigniting a debate about how often companies should give financial updates to investors.

Such a switch would mark a huge change in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's disclosure requirements and put them in line with European Union and United Kingdom rules. Trump said on Twitter that meetings with business leaders had convinced him that the change would give companies more flexibility and reduce costs.

The president was speaking economically, of course -- that perhaps large corporations could save time and money by filing semi-annual reports instead of quarterly, thus freeing businesses to take a longer-term approach to strategy, stock price goals, expansion, etc.

Nooyi said in an e-mailed statement, "Many market participants, as well as the Business Roundtable which we are a part of, have been discussing how to better orient corporations to have a more long-term view ... My comments were made in that broader context, and included a suggestion to explore the harmonization of the European system and the U.S. system of financial reporting."

Some investors and analysts said Trump’s argument made sense because it would cut costs of compiling and filing results and remove short-term distractions for those running companies. Others said quarterly disclosures are essential for investment decisions and support richer U.S. stock valuations, and that a change could make shares more volatile.

In other words, it's a battle between the companies that actually produce and make things, and the Wall Street parasites who make a living feeding off them. But over the past 40 years or so, the oxpeckers have increasingly begun to herd the black rhinos on which they sit, often stampeding them into disastrous decisions: for example, the disastrous merger of Time Inc. with first Warner Communications and then, as Time Warner, into the mutually suicidal embrace of AOL. The "transformative transactions" sought by a group of stupid, petty, greedy men enriched the executives but destroyed the company. Today, Time Magazine and the rest of the flagship publications of what was once one of America's mightiest, best run, and most influential media companies have essentially been sold off for parts, their once-formidable brands already a fading memory.

And while Wall Street and its machinations are remote from my daily life, business is not; in a fight between the two, I'm rooting for the black rhinos instead of the blood-sucking birds.  And so, I know, is Trump. He is, after all, a businessman himself, who inherited his father's empire and turned it into a global brand, whatever you may think of it, or him. He understands that the business of business is business, not social justice, political activity or any other ancillary activity. Google's motto may be "don't be evil" (stop laughing) and it may currently be trying to take advantage of its dominant market position to influence political events -- but the minute the feds come after it, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon as public utilities instead of private enterprises (for that's where all this is heading), watch them retrench, pronto.