Taking Stock by Malcolm Berko

Roundup of Often-Asked Questions

Dear Readers: The following are some frequently asked questions with some short answers.

SOCIALISM VS. CAPITALISM in the United States: Many politicians are taking "Santa Claus" classes at night school, resulting in a growing molehill of congresspeople who are slowly morphing into socialists with proposals for free education, free health care and a universal basic monthly income. And a buzzing hive of congresspeople are proposing to eliminate student debt for families earning under $100,000. Good arguments can be made for and against these "gimmes," but I'll not be drawn into them.

And many politicians, persuasive enough to get the devil to sing in a Baptist choir, can, in 10 minutes, convince you socialism -- government control of income, production, banking and distribution -- can effortlessly solve most of the problems created by capitalism. Nor will I be drawn into this debate.

However, be mindful that while we can vote our way into socialism, we'd probably have to shoot our way out. If that's what the majority of Americans want, then I must accept it or move to Iceland, which has been a real constitutional republic since 1944. Frankly, there are millions of Americans who would be happy as hogs on ice living and working under socialism.

"POETRY, PONDERINGS AND MUSINGS": Thanks, dear readers, for your enthusiastic response to my book. But please understand I only make $2.06 for each book purchased on Amazon. During the last three weeks I've personally autographed and returned 87 of those books, and it cost me $348 in postage plus $0.75 per envelope. So, beginning May 21 (one month before the summer solstice), I won't return a book unless it includes a stamped, self-addressed envelope. And that also includes the weekly letters I receive without return postage or an email address.

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS: Almost twice a month for 30 years I've flown from coast to coast speaking to audiences in cities where this column is published. I even bought a small Cessna for 300-plus-mile hops. My subjects were identical to those in this column: the stock market, how to select stocks and stockbrokers, the evils of Wall Street, the banking industry and annuity pushers -- 50 years of my stock market philosophy and humor. I'm cutting my speaking appearances from 18 a year to once a quarter because my wife threatened to join me on all public appearances exceeding four.

RAD: Rite Aid (RAD-$9.62), with shares recently trading below a buck, received a notice of noncompliance from the NYSE and effected a one-share-for-20 reverse split last March. So 32,000 shares bought at $0.77 last year for $24,600 are now 3,200 shares at $9.62, worth $30,800 and a $6,200 profit. But the gain may disappear, as new management told investors RAD may earn between a penny and 4 cents a share this year. Fortunately, the CEO, the financial chief and the operating chief are leaving the company as part of a restructuring plan that also eliminates 400 full-time management positions.

Even after Walgreens purchased about 2,000 of RAD's stores in March 2018, RAD remains the nation's third largest drugstore with 2,500 units. If it's not possible for the DNA of one company to be genetically inferior to the DNA of another, then I don't know what's wrong with RAD, whose profitless years since 2005 greatly exceed its profitable years. An alternative reason for such pathetic results is that previous management was hired by the shorts to run RAD into bankruptcy. However, this $22 billion revenue company has a $15.20 book value, and if RAD declared bankruptcy, you'd have about a $6.20 gain per share or over $24,000.

Some believe the best alternative for RAD is a white knight, but that white knight might end up black and blue. Competitive headwinds are getting stiffer, recovery prospects are bleak, and RAD is well behind its rivals in nearly every metric. But don't sell yet; I need to talk to several more RAD people.

(Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at mjberko@yahoo.com.)