‘No plan, no Q, nothing’: QAnon followers reel as Biden inaugurated

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SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - For three years, adherents of the sprawling QAnon conspiracy theory awaited a so-called Great Awakening, scouring anonymous web postings from a shadowy “Q” figure and parsing statements by former U.S. President Donald Trump, whom they believed to be their champion.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters wearing shirts with the QAnon logo, chat before U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage during his Make America Great Again rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA, U.S., August 2, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

On Wednesday, they grappled with a harsh reality check: Trump had left office with no mass arrests or other victories against the supposed cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile cannibal elites, especially Democrats, he was ostensibly fighting.

Instead, Democratic President Joseph Biden was calmly sworn into office, leaving legions of QAnon faithful struggling to make sense of what had transpired.

In one Telegram channel with more than 18,400 members, QAnon believers were split between those still urging others to ‘trust the plan’ and those saying they felt betrayed. “It’s obvious now we’ve been had. No plan, no Q, nothing,” wrote one user.

Some messages referenced theories that a coup was going to take place before the end of Inauguration Day. Others moved the goalposts again, speculating that Trump would be sworn into office on Mar. 4.

“Does anybody have any idea what we should be waiting for next or what the next move could be?” asked another user, who said they wanted to have a ‘big win’ and arrests made.

Jared Holt, a disinformation researcher at the Atlantic Council, said he had never before seen disillusionment in the QAnon communities he monitors at this scale.

“It’s the whole ‘trust the plan’ thing. Q believers have just allowed themselves to be strung from failed promise to failed promise.”

“The whole movement is called into question now.”

A poll with more than 36,000 votes conducted in another QAnon Telegram channel before Biden’s swearing-in ceremony showed that more than 20% of respondents predicted nothing would in fact happen and Biden would become president, according to the Q Origins Project, which tracks the movement.

However, 34% believe “the military & Trump have a plan coming in the near future,” even while acknowledging the transfer of presidential power.


The anonymous person or people known as “Q” started posting the vague predictions that would become the basis of the QAnon movement on message board 4chan in 2017, claiming to be a Trump administration insider with top secret security clearance.

The number of followers exploded with the arrival of the coronavirus last year, providing a sense of community missing in many people’s isolated pandemic lives by encouraging participants to “do their own research” and contribute findings to the crowd.

Q interpreters have become mini-celebrities in their own right, spreading the gospel on mainstream sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and raising money with appeals to charity or merchandise sales, before the social media platforms cracked down late last year.

Among them was Ron Watkins, who was among a small group of movement leaders who stepped up their public activity after Trump’s loss in the Nov. 3 election, as the “drops” from Q slowed and then stopped.

The longtime administrator of 8kun, an unmoderated forum where Q posted alongside violent extremists and racists, Watkins adopted the cryptic tone of Q in the past two months on Twitter and then Telegram.

At the same time he positioned himself as an expert on election fraud, getting retweeted by Trump and interviewed by Trump-favored media outlets such as One America News Network.

In one of the most jarring apparent reversals on Wednesday, Watkins appeared to admit defeat, posting: “We have a new president sworn in and it is our responsibility as citizens to respect the Constitution regardless of whether or not we agree with the specifics.”

“Please remember all the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years.” He said he was working on a new venture, but gave no further details.

On TheDonald.win, a reconstituted version of the Reddit forum “The Donald” that long served as an online home for Trump loyalists, users turned on Watkins and accused him of being a “shill” and a CIA plant.

Other fringe groups, including neo-Nazis, said they intended to capitalize on the disarray by stepping up recruitment from among QAnon followers.

Biden’s tax plan has a better chance as Democrats sweep Georgia

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) of Georgia wave to supporters during a rally on November 15, 2020 in Marietta, Georgia. Jessica McGowan | Getty Images

Democrats will now have a narrow lead in the Senate, which may give President-elect Joe Biden’s tax plan a better chance at passing. Georgia hosted two hotly contested Senate runoff races on Tuesday. Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock won the race against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, according to NBC News projections and Democrat Jon Ossoff has also won his contest against Republican David Perdue, NBC News projects.

Two wins in Georgia give Democrats a 50-50 split for control over the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. This also means that Biden’s plan – a proposal that calls for higher taxes on households with more than $400,000 in income – could be a step closer to fruition. Don’t overhaul your own plans just yet, though. “2020 has taught us that the danger of predicting is high, so we always try to plan and not predict,” said Pam Lucina, chief fiduciary officer and head of the trust and advisory practice at Northern Trust Wealth Management. “The mantra is what we’ve always said, ‘Don’t make changes based on political predictions,’” she said. “Your long-term goals are to always be a guide.”

Reviewing key proposal elements

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally with Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock the day before their runoff election in the parking lot of Centerparc Stadium January 04, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Here’s a recap of the some of the major elements Biden pitched during his campaign. Increasing the top individual income tax rate to 39.6%: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act set a top marginal individual income tax rate of 37%. Extending the 12.4% portion of the Social Security tax to earnings over $400,000. Under current law, wages up to $137,700 are subject to this tax. Raising the capital gains rate to 39.6% for taxpayers with more than $1 million in income. Right now, wealthy investors are subject to a top rate of 20% on long-term capital gains.

This isn’t 2017 – this is different. There’s a 50-50 tie at best, and every Democratic Senator has veto power over the bill. Tony Nitti, CPA partner in RubinBrown’s Tax Services Group

Eliminating the step-up in basis. Today, heirs receive assets valued as of the date of death, which means they can sell these investments with little to no tax. Biden’s proposal would tax unrealized capital gains. Lowering the amount wealthy families can transfer free of the estate and gift tax. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows individuals to transfer up to $11.7 million without facing the gift or estate tax. Biden’s proposal calls for lowering this limit to $3.5 million per individual in bequeaths and $1 million in gifts. Raising corporate tax rates. The corporate tax rate is currently 21%, but Biden’s proposal calls for increasing it to 28%. At this point, tax professionals are grappling with queries from their clients. “How likely are these things to happen? How soon might they happen? How high will taxes go?” asked John Gimigliano, principal-in-charge, federal tax legislative and regulatory services at KPMG.

Greenlighting a tax overhaul still unlikely

Steven Heap/EyeEm/Getty Images

An even split in the Senate gives Biden’s proposals more of a chance, but it doesn’t guarantee the initiatives will move forward. “This isn’t 2017 – this is different,” said Tony Nitti, CPA and partner in RubinBrown’s Tax Services Group, recalling how Republicans had control of the Senate that year and were able to push forward the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “There’s a 50-50 tie at best, and every Democratic Senator has veto power over the bill,” he said, noting moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., might be less likely to go along with a tax increase in a pandemic.

“Couple that with a thinner majority in the House and set it against the backdrop of the global pandemic, and it’s really hard to envision a scenario where sweeping changes get done in that environment,” said Nitti. Lawmakers may also prioritize additional Covid-relief measures before they begin to tackle sweeping changes to the tax code. “We’re focusing on a very serious pandemic right now,” said Lucina of Northern Trust. “All of the facts that are there don’t point toward aggressive changes.” Indeed, Biden has said that he’d push for another round of stimulus payments in the next aid bill.

Coordinate with your tax professional

Merkel hopes to step up work on digital tax with Biden administration

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For investors seeking a strong dividend player, there are some market segments that are known for their high-yield dividends, making them logical places to start looking for reliable payers. The hydrocarbon sector, oil and gas production and mainstreaming, is one of these. The sector deals in a products that’s essential – our world runs on oil and its by-products. And while overhead for energy companies is high, they still have a market for their deliverables, leading to a ready cash flow – which can be used, among other things, to pay the dividends. All of this has investment firm Raymond James looking to the roster oil and gas midstream companies for dividend stocks with growth potential. “We anticipate the [midstream] group will add around ~1 turn to its average EV/EBITDA multiple this year. This equates to a ~20-25% move in equity value,” Raymond James analyst Justin Jenkins noted. Jenkins outlined a series of points leading to a midstream recovery in 2021, which include the shift from ‘lockdown’ to ‘reopen’ policies; a general boost on the way for commodities, as the economy picks up; a political point, that some of DC’s more traditional centrists are unlikely to vote in favor of anti-oil, Green New Deal policies; and finally, with stock values relatively low, the dividend yields are high. A look into the TipRanks database reveals two midstream companies that have come to Raymond James’ attention – for all of the points noted above. These are stocks with a specific set of clear attributes: a dividend yield of 7% or higher and Buy ratings. MPLX LP (MPLX) MPLX, which spun off of Marathon Petroleum eight years ago as a separate midstream entity, acquires, owns, and operates a series of midstream assets, including pipelines, terminals, refineries, and river shipping. MPLX’s main areas of operations are in the northern Rocky Mountains, and in the Midwest and stretching south to the Gulf of Mexico coast. Revenue reports through the ‘corona year’ of 2020 show the value potential of oil and gas midstreaming. The company reported $2.18 billion at the top line in Q1, $1.99 billion in Q2, and $2.16 billion in Q3; earnings turned negative in Q1, but were positive in both subsequent quarters. The Q3 report also showed $1.2 billion in net cash generated, more than enough to cover the company’s dividend distribution. MPLX pays out 68.75 cents per common share quarterly, or $2.75 annualized, which gives the dividend a high yield of 11.9%. The company has a diversified set of midstream operations, and strong cash generation, factors leading Raymond James’ Justin Jenkins to upgrade his stance on MPLX from Neutral to Outperform (i.e. Buy). His price target, at $28, implies a 22% one-year upside for the shares. (To watch Jenkins’ track record, click here) Backing his stance, Jenkins writes, “Given the number of ‘boxes’ that the story for MPLX can check, it’s no surprise that it’s been a debate stock. With exposure to inflecting G&P trends, an expected refining/refined product volume recovery, the story hits many operational boxes - while also straddling several financial debates… We also think solid 2020 financial results should give longer-term confidence…” Turning now to the rest of the Street, it appears that other analysts are generally on the same page. With 6 Buys and 2 Holds assigned in the last three months, the consensus rating comes in as a Strong Buy. In addition, the $26.71 average price target puts the upside at ~17%. (See MPLX stock analysis on TipRanks) DCP Midstream Partners (DCP) Based in Denver, Colorado, the next stock is one of the country’s largest natural gas midstream operators. DCP controls a network of gas pipelines, hubs, storage facilities, and plants stretching between the Rocky Mountain, Midcontinent, and Permian Basin production areas and the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. The company also operates in the Antrim gas region of Michigan. In the most recent reported quarter – 3Q20 – DCP gathered and processed 4.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day, along with 375 thousand barrels of natural gas liquids. The company also reported $268 million in net cash generated, of which $130 million was free cash flow. The company reduced its debt load by $156 million in the quarter, and showed a 17% reduction in operating costs year-over-year. All of this allowed DCP to maintain its dividend at 39 cents per share. Early in the corona crisis, the company had to cut back that payment – but only once. The recently declared 4Q20 dividend is the fourth in a row at 39 cents per common share. The annualized rate of $1.56 gives a respectable yield of 7.8%. This is another stock that gets an upgrade from Raymond James. Analyst James Weston bumps this stock up from Neutral to Outperform (i.e. Buy), while setting a $24 target price to imply 20% growth on the one-year time horizon. “[We] expect DCP to post yet another solid quarter on sequential improvements in NGL prices, NGL market volatility, and positive upstream trends… we are not capitalizing current propane prices and anticipate a solid, but more normalized pricing regime over the next 12-18 months. In our view, this will create a beneficial operating environment for DCP cash flows that is not currently reflected in Street estimates,” Weston noted. All in all, the Moderate Buy analyst consensus rating on DCP is based on 7 recent reviews, breaking down 4 to 3 Buy versus Hold. Shares are priced at $19.58 and the average target of $23 suggests an upside of ~15% from that level. (See DCP stock analysis on TipRanks) To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.