Soul-searching time. As I prepped for my interview with United Technologies' (UTX) CEO Greg Hayes, making call after call to be sure I had the right stuff, for my interview up at his Pratt & Whitney division yesterday I found myself on the defensive or maybe even flat on the canvas.
One of my sources said that Hayes wanted to move the Carrier plant because of short-termism, "the kind you always advocate on Mad Money."
I reminded the individual that I don't encourage people to trade, that I want them to invest. Buy and do homework.
He came right back at me. "Don't kid yourself, on air you estimated that not going to Mexico might cost the company two cents a share, basically saying that the caving in to Trump is going to lead to cutting numbers."
It's true, I said. All true.
But I said it was my job to figure out the direction of a stock, both short term and medium term.
And that's when he reiterated that such limited thinking on Wall Street like mine has at its roots people who think of the two cents per share this quarter and not the dollars per share in two years if everything goes right.
I shot back, "look, I want higher revenues and lower costs. That's what produces good returns. This move to Mexico means nothing; low-tech jobs at high-tech wages being sacrificed for higher tech and lower wages. That's what is supposed to happen the in the scheme of things."
He said that good returns have to do with smarts and ingenuity and thinking long term and I encourage the opposite.
He wanted me to look myself in the mirror and grasp how even I play a role in trying to meet the numbers, and I should let up.
I said in the end I have to care about all different timeframes and I am a person who is on TV, not on the board, and not a shareholder. I reflect the current ethos. He acknowledged that was right, that it was my job to know timeframes, but that to remember that worrying about two cents in the short term can blind you.
Then, real heavy punch: there's now more to being an American company that exports and offshores. "Our manufacturing base is eroding. We do have critical needs, and an American CEO must now be thinking not just about globalization and profit but about America itself," he lectured me.
And he finished about as poignant as you can get: don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution.
I hung up and looked myself in the mirror and soul-searched about what's been happening. About how we need to be competitive but how a president getting involved in this way is no different than a president anointing solar energy as the industry of the future. Let the market decide, that's the policy that has always worked.
But put something bigger into the equation. Just like you care about the environment, care about the country.
I never said I didn't do that, but it's a calculus that many of us who have worked on Wall Street sorely lack, and now belongs in the thinking of all stock pickers, whether we like it or not, because of this new president.
Believe me, from now on it's there. After United Tech, from now on it's there, big-time, and I am not going to forget what happened to Carrier and what's now going to happen to all others who don't fall into line.
It's American CEOs playing in a global world, not global CEOs who live in America from now on, and the first adjective most certainly will now trump the latter.